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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
What is meant by, As yet shall he halt at Nob that day?10 — R. Huna said: [Only] that day was left for [the punishment of] the crime [committed] in Nob.11 So his soothsayers said to him, 'If thou proceedest now [to attack], thou wilt conquer it; if not, thou wilt not conquer it.' Therefore the journey that should have taken ten days to make he completed in one day.12 When Jerusalem was reached, mattresses were piled up for him until, by ascending and sitting on the uppermost, he saw the whole of Jerusalem. On beholding it, it appeared small in his eyes. 'Is this the city of Jerusalem,' he exclaimed, 'for which I set all my troops in motion, and conquered the whole country? Why, it is smaller and weaker than all the cities of the nations which I have subdued by my might!'13 Then he arose and shook his head and waved his hand to and fro contemptuously toward the Temple in Zion, against the [Temple] Court in Jerusalem.14 They [the astrologers] urged, 'Let us attack immediately.'15 'Ye are too worn out,' he replied, 'but to-morrow let each of you bring me a stone, and we shall stone it.'16 Straightway, And it came to pass that night that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.17 R. Papa said: Thus men say: If the verdict is postponed overnight, it comes to nought.18
And Ishbi-benob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David.19 What is meant by 'And Ishbi-be-nob'? — Rab Judah said in Rab's name: A man who came on account of Nob.20 [For] the Holy One, blessed be He had said to David, 'How long will this crime be hidden in thy hand. [i.e.. unpunished]. Through thee Nob, the city of Priests, was massacred; through thee Doeg the Edomite was banished; and through thee Saul and his three sons were slain:21 wouldst thou rather thy line to end, or be delivered unto the enemy's hand? He replied: 'Sovereign of the Universe! I would rather be delivered into the enemy's hand than that my line should end.'22 One day, when he [David] ventured forth to Sekhor Bizzae,23 Satan appeared before him in the guise of a deer. He shot arrows at him, but did not reach him, and was thus led on until inveigled into the land of the Philistines. When Ishbi-benob espied him, he exclaimed, 'It is he who slew my brother Goliath.' So he bound him, doubled him up and cast him under an olive press; but a miracle was wrought, and the ground softened under him. Hence it is written, Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.24 Now that day was Sabbath Eve, and Abishai the son of Zeruiah,25 washing his head in four gribahs26 of water, remarked some blood-stains [therein]. Others say a dove came and beat [its wings] before him. Thereupon he reasoned: Israel27 is likened to a dove, as it is written, ye are as the wings of a dove covered with silver;28 this must be an intimation that David is in trouble. So he went to his house, but did not find him. Now, said he, we learnt, One may not ride upon his [sc. a king's] horse, nor sit upon his seat, nor use his sceptre:29 but how is it in a time of danger? So he went and propounded the question in the schoolhouse, and was answered, 'In time of danger, it is permitted.' He then mounted his [sc. David's] mule and rode off,30 and the earth contracted under him.31 Whilst riding, he saw Orpah his [sc. Ishbi-benob's] mother spinning. On descrying him, she broke off [the thread of] the spindle and threw it [the spindle] at him, intending to kill him. Then she said, 'Young man, bring me the spindle.'32 but he threw it on the top of her head instead, and killed her. When Ishbi-benob beheld him, he said [to himself], Now that there are two they will slay me. So he threw David up [in the air] and stuck his spear [into the earth], Saying. 'Let him fall upon it, and perish;' but Abishai pronounced the Divine Name, by means of which David was held suspended between heaven and earth. (Why did not David pronounce it himself? — Because 'a prisoner cannot free himself from prison.') [Abishai] then enquired of him, 'What dost thou here?' — 'Thus did God speak unto me,33 and thus did I answer Him,' replied he. 'Reverse thy prayer.' said he: 'let thy grandson sell wax rather than that thou shouldst suffer.'34 'If so,' said he, 'do thou aid me [to reverse it].' Hence it is written, But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him,35 upon which Rab Judah commented in Rab's name: He succoured him in prayer. Abishai then [again] pronounced the Divine Name and brought him down36 [from midair, where he was still suspended]. Now Ishbi-benob was pursuing them. When they reached Kubi37 they said to [each other], 'Let us stand [and fight] against him.' [But they were still afraid, and proceeded further.] When they reached Bethre38 they said, 'Can two whelps kill a lion?'39 So they taunted him, 'Go and find thy mother Orpah in the grave.' On their mentioning his mother's name to him40 his strength failed, and they slew him. Hence it is written, Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt no more go out with us unto battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel.41
Our Rabbis taught: For three did the earth shrink: Eliezer, Abraham's servant, our father Jacob, and Abishai the son of Zeruiah. Abishai the son of Zeruiah, as has just been narrated. Eliezer, Abraham's servant, as it is written, And I came this day unto the well,42 implying that he had set out on that day.43 Our father Jacob,
Sanhedrin 95bas it is written, And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went to Haran;1 which is followed by and he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set.2 For when he reached Haran, he said [to himself], 'Shall I have passed through a place in which my fathers prayed, without doing so likewise!' He wished therefore to return, but no sooner had he thought of this than the earth contracted, and immediately he lighted upon a place [the objective of his journey]. An alternative exegesis is this: Pegi'ah3 can only mean prayer, as it is written, Therefore pray thou not for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession4 to me.5
And tarried there all night, because the sun was set. Having prayed, he wished to proceed: thereupon the Holy One, blessed be He, said: This righteous man has come to my habitation:6 shall he depart without a night's rest? Immediately the sun set [before its time].7 Hence it is written, [And as he passed over Penuel,] the sun rose for him.8 Now, had the sun risen for him alone: surely it had risen for the whole world! But, said R. Isaac, the sun which had [prematurely] set on his account, now rose [prematurely] on his account too.
Now, whence do we know that David's seed ceased?9 — From the verse, And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal.10 But was not Joash left? — There too Abiathar was left, as it is written, And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped.11 Rab Judah said in Rab's name: Had not Abiathar been left of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, not the slightest remnant12 would have remained of David's seed.
Rab Judah said in Rab's name: The wicked Sennacherib advanced against them13 with a force consisting of forty-five thousand princes, each enthroned in a golden chariot and accompanied by his ladies and harlots, eighty thousand warriors in coat-of-mail, and sixty thousand swordsmen of the front line, the rest cavalrymen. A similar host attacked Abraham ,14 and a like force will accompany Gog and Magog.15 In the Baraitha it was taught: The length of his army was four hundred parasangs, the horses standing neck to neck formed a line forty parasangs long, and the grand total of his army two million, six hundred thousand less one. Abaye inquired: Less one ribbo [ten thousand], one thousand, one hundred, or one? The question stands over.
A Tanna taught: The first company swam across, as it is written, he shall overflow and go over;16 the second walked across,17 as it is written, he shall reach even to the neck; the third cast up the dust [of the river bed] with their feet and found no water in the river to drink, until it was brought from elsewhere and they drank, as it is written, I have digged, and drunk water.18
But is it not written, Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the mornings behold, they were all dead corpses?19 — R. Abbahu replied: These were the army captains. R. Ashi said: This may be deduced too, for it is written, [Therefore shall the Lord … send] among his fat ones leanness,20 meaning, amongst the cream [i.e., the leaders] of them. Rabina said: This may be also deduced, for it is written, And the Lord sent an angel, which cut off all the men of valour, and the leaders and the princes in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shamefacedness to his own land. And when he entered into the house of his god, they that came forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword.21 This proves it.
Wherewith did he [the angel] smite them? — R. Eliezer said: He smote them with his hand, as it is written, And Israel saw the great hand,22 implying the hand that was destined to exact vengeance of Sennacherib.23 R. Joshua said: He smote them with his finger, as it is written, Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God,24 implying this is the finger destined to punish Sennacherib. R. Eliezer, the son of R. Jose, said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Gabriel, 'Is thy sickle sharpened [to mow down the Assyrians]?' He replied: 'Sovereign of the Universe! It has been sharpened since the Six days of Creation', as it is written, For they fled from the swords, from the sharpened sword etc.25 R. Simeon b. Yohai said: It was the time for the ripening of fruits, so the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Gabriel, 'When thou goest forth to ripen the fruits,26 attack them, as it is written, As he passeth27 he shall take you:' for morning by morning shall he pass by, by day and by night, and it shall be a sheer terror to understand the report.'28 R. Papa said: Thus people say, 'In passing, reveal thyself to thine enemy.'29
Others say: He [Gabriel] breathed into their nostrils, and they died, as it is written, and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither.30 R. Jeremiah b. Abba said: He smote his hands at them, and they died, as it is written, I will also smite mine hands together, and I will cause my fury to rest.31 R. Isaac the Smith said: He unsealed their ears for them, so that they heard the Hayyoth32 sing [praises to God] and they died, as it is written, at thine exaltation the people were scattered.33
Now how many were left of them. [sc. the Assyrians host]? — Rab said: Ten, as it is written, And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them:34 What figure can a child write? — Ten.35 Samuel said: Nine [were left], as it is written, yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two and three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four and five in the utmost fruitful branches thereof.36 R. Joshua b. Levi said: Fourteen, as it is written, two, three … four five.37 R. Johanan said: Five, viz., Sennacherib and his two sons, Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuzaradan. [That] Nebuzaradan [survived] is a tradition. Nebuchadnezzar, as it is written, And the form of the fourth is like an angel of God:38 Had he not seen [an angel], how did he know [his appearance]?39 Sennacherib and his two sons, as it is written, And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword.40
R. Abbahu said: Were not the [following] verse written, it would have been impossible to conceive of it: viz., In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by the riverside, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall consume the beard.41 The Holy one, blessed be He, went and appeared before him [Sennacherib] as an old man, and said to him, 'When thou goest to the kings of the east and the west, whose sons thou didst lead [to battle]42 and cause their death, what wilt thou say to them?' He replied, 'I43 too entertain that fear. What then shall I do?' asked he. 'Go,' He replied,
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