Two Ancient Legends Concerning the First Temple
Termed Solomon's Temple
Bro. John Yarker
(Condensed from Transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, London, 908, Vol. 21, and edited by Bro. Walter Dorsey.)
THROUGH the favor of a London friend, the preceptor of a Jewish Lodge, I have obtained translations from learned Rabbis of two legends, which may be added to the interesting document entitled the Testament of Solomon, of which an account was given in Vol. XIV of A.Q.C., all of which have reference to the erection of Solomon's temple; of course, legendary matter added at a much later date.
The Jewish Rabbis and their co-religionists seem to attach some importance to these legends, but in the remarks which I here briefly attach to them I am afraid that I shall be considered unorthodox, both by Jew and Gentile. Lord Sandwich, being anxious to obtain an ex-cathedra definition of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, applied to the learned Bishop Warburton, and that liberal-minded cleric replied: "Well, my Lord, orthodoxy is my doxy, but heterodoxy is another man's doxy" - and so I will leave that part of the question.
There was a very ancient legend current in the Aryan East that mankind were at first of an ethereal nature, that is, they had hot yet gathered the protoplasm out of which our present gross bodies are formed. Of these there were seventy-two kings named Sulieman, or Solomons, the last three of whom reigned each 1000 years. The Arabs of our time consider them the rulers of the genie and afreets, and many an eastern story-teller laments the departed glories of Sulieman-i-takt, or the throne of Solomon, a structure to the south of the desert of Gobi, and we have also, still further south, the Sulieman Mountains. The Accadians of Babylon had knowledge of this legend, and one of our achaeologists informs us that they had a god named Solymo. The late Dr. Kenealy was a Persian scholar and held that this word, or this god, was the equivalent of King, Khan, Pharaoh, etc.
Whether Jedediah, the beloved of Jah, who was King over Israel in succession to David, was known as Solomon previous to the time of Ezra, the Scribe, and editor of the present sacred writings of the Jews, I will not venture to say, but I have no hesitation in expressing my belief that he Jewish captives in Babylon have added the legends of the pre-historic Suliemans to the history of their ancient King Jedediah, the son of David.
THE "Old York Lecture," as Dr. Geo. Oliver terms it in nearly every volume in which he quotes the ritual, told us that the secret which was lost by the joint compact of the three G.M.'s was that of "the insect Shermah used to give a very high polish to the stones." Our learned contributor, Bro. W. W. Westcott, has made several suggestions upon the point, the most probable of which is that Shermah is a corruption of another Hebrew word, applied to the emery stone.
The second translation, which I append, is taken from the book Yalkut, which is a compilation of the Midrash, which former in Hebrew signifies "to gather together," and is the word used for the bag in which David "gathered together" the pebbles with which he slew Goliath.
In the latter part of the eighteenth century there was in existence an Hermetic and Alchemical Rite of seven degrees termed the Fratres Lucis, or Brothers of Light. Its three degrees gave a short outline of this legend of Hiram, King of Tyre, and taught the candidate that the legend of Hiram Abiff was suggested by it, or compiled out of it, and then went on to say that all the points of a Master Mason were intended to point out the necessary operations to be used in developing the philosopher's stone. Of course this is pure nonsense, but the Rite had some really eminent Hermetic Freemasons, including that extraordinary man the Count de St. Germain, a man of whom it is said that he possessed duality of brain and could write on two subjects with the two hands at the same time, and could repeat the whole of a newspaper with one reading.
IN my opinion, the Guild considered the legend of Hiram Abiff as an actual fact and commemorated it annually, and it is out of that commemoration, followed in England by the Masons of the Classical revival of Inigo Jones, that we derive what we know of it in our present Master Mason's degree, incomplete though it is. But Guild Masonry is the caste equivalent of the ancient Mysteries of Osiris, Dionysis, Bacchus, Serapis, etc., and its commemorative legend runs with these. It may date even from the erection of the Second Temple by the Babylonians, and the old York Ritual, which possesses much of Guild Masonry, points to a connection with the so-called Mysteries. It will be noted that the obliging translator of Yalkut says that there was another legend by which Hiram King of Tyre had 600 years of paradise for providing cedars for the Temple. Probably this may be the original form on which the Yalkut legend was engrafted by the sufferers under Nebuchadnezzar, who had his seven-story tower, the topmost chamber of which was a cube with a golden bed in which reposed a young virgin waiting the embraces of the god Bel. The end of Hiram, King of Tyre, is horrible in the extreme, but I have not thought myself justified in toning it down.
THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD AND THE DEMONS
THE Talmud is particularly rich in demonology and many are the forms which the evil principle assumes in its pages. Enough now to mention the circumstance of their existence and to introduce the story of Ashmedai, the King of the Demons. Six things are said respecting them. In three things they are like angels, and in three they resemble men. They have wings like angels, with which they fly from one end of the world to the other, and they know the future as angels do, with this difference, that they learn it by listening behind the Veil, to what is said within it.
In three respects they resemble men - they eat and drink; they beget and multiply, and, like men, they die.
In Ecclesiastes ii, 8, we. read: "I gat me men singers, and women singers, the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts." These last seven words represent only two in the original Hebrew-Shiddah veshiddoth. These two words in the original Hebrew, translated by the seven already given, have been a source of great perplexity to the critics, and their exact meaning is a question of debate to this hour. They in the West say that they mean severally carriages for lords, and carriages for ladies, whilst we (says the Babylonish Talmud) interpret them to mean male demons and female demons. Whereupon, if this last is the correct rendering, the question arises for what purpose did Solomon require them?
The answer is to be found in I: Kings, v. 7, where it is written: "And the house when it was building, was built of stone, made ready before it was brought thither," etc. For before the operation was commenced Solomon asked the Rabbis, "How shall I accomplish this without using tools of iron?" And they, remembering of an insect which had existed since the creation of the world, whose powers were such as the hardest substance could not resist, replied: "There is the Shameer, with which Moses cut the precious stones of the Ephod." Solomon asked, "And where, pray, is the Shameer to be found?" To which they made answer: "Let a male demon and a female demon come, and do thou coerce them both, mayhap they know and will reveal it to thee."
He then conjured into his presence a male and a female demon, and proceeded to torture them, but in vain, for said they: "We know not its whereabouts, and therefore cannot tell. Perhaps Ashmedai, King of the Demons, may know." On being further interrogated as to where he, in turn, might be found, they made this answer: "In yonder mount is his residence, there he has dug a pit, and after filling it with water, covered it over with a stone and sealed it with his own seal; daily he ascends to heaven and studies in the school of wisdom there, then be comes down and studies in the school of wisdom here; upon which he goes and examines the seal, then opens the pit, and after quenching his thirst, covers it up again, reseals it and takes his departure." Solomon thereupon sent Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, provided with a magic chain and ring, upon both of which the name of God was engraved.
HE also provided him with a fleece of wool and sundry skins of wine. Then Benaiah went and sank a pit below that of Ashmedai, into which he drained off the water and plugged the duct between with the fleece. Then he set to and dug another hole higher tip, with a channel leading into the emptied pit of Ashmedai, by means of which he filled the pit with the wine which he had brought. After levelling the ground, so as not to arouse suspicion, he withdrew to a tree close by, so as to watch the result and wait his opportunity. After a while Ashmedai came and examined the seal, when, seeing it all right, he raised the stone and, to his surprise, found wine in the pit. For a time he stood muttering, and saying "It is written (Prov. xx, i), wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived thereby is not wise."
And again (Hosea iv, ii), "Whoredom and wine, and new wine, take away the heart." Therefore, at first, he was unwilling to drink, but being thirsty he could not long resist the temptation. He therefore proceeded to drink, when, becoming intoxicated, he lay down to sleep. Then Benaiah came forth from the ambush and, stealthily approaching, fastened the chain around the sleeper's neck. Ashmedai, when he awoke, began to fret and fume, and would have torn off the chain that bound him had not Benaiah warned him, saving, "The name of the Lord is upon thee."
Having thus secured him, Benaiah proceeded to lead him away to his royal Master. As they journeyed along they came to a palm tree, against which Ashmedai rubbed himself until he uprooted it, and threw it down. When they drew near to a hut the poor widow who inhabited it saluted them, upon which he suddenly bent his back and snapped a bone of his body and said: "This is that which was written," (Prov. xxv., 15). "A gentle answer breaketh the bone." Descrying a blind man straying out of his way he hailed him and directed him aright. He even did the same service to a man overcome with wine, who was in a similar predicament. At sight of a wedding party which passed along he wept. But he burst into uncontrollable laughter when he heard a man order at a shoemaker's stall a pair of shoes that would last seven years; and when he saw a magician at his work, he broke forth into shrieks of scorn.
ON arriving at the Royal City, three days were allowed to pass before he was introduced to Solomon. On the first day he said: "Why doth the King not invite me to his presence?" "He hath drunk too much," was the answer, "and the wine has overpowered him." Upon which he lifted a brick and placed it upon another. When this was communicated to Solomon, he said: "He meant by this 'go and make him drunk again."' On the following day he asked again: "Why doth the King not invite me to his presence?" They replied: "He hath eaten too much." On this he removed the brick again from the top of the other. When this was reported to the King he interpreted it, "Stint him in his food." After the third day he was introduced to the King, when, measuring off four cubits upon the floor with the stick which he held in his hand, he said to Solomon "When thou diest thou wilt not possess in this world more than four cubits of earth." (He referred to the grave.) "Meanwhile thou hast conquered the world, yet thou wert not satisfied until thou hadst overcome me also."
To this the King replied: "I want nothing of thee but this, I wish to build the temple and have need of the Shameer." To this Ashmedai answered: "The Shameer is not committed in charge to me, but to the Prince of the Sea, and he entrusts it to no one except to the great wild cock, and that upon an oath that he return it to him again." Whereupon Solomon asked: "And what does the wild cock do with the Shameer?" To which the Demon replied: "He takes it to a barren rocky mountain, and by means of it he cleaves the mountain asunder, which formed into a valley, into the cleft of it he drops the seeds of various plants and trees, and thus the place becomes clothed with verdure and fit for habitation." This is the Lapwing (A.V.), Hoopoe (R.V.), mentioned in Lev. xi., 19, which the Targum renders, Nagger Tura, "Mountain Splitter."
THEY therefore searched for the nest of the wild cock, which they found contained a young brood. This they covered with a glass through which the bird might see its young, without being able to get at them. When, accordingly, the bird came and found its nest impenetrably glazed over, he went and fetched the Shameer, and just as he was about to apply it to the glass in order to cut it, Solomon's messenger caught it up and made off with it. The cock thereupon went and strangled himself, because he was unable to keep the oath by which he had bound himself to return the Shameer.
Benaiah asked Ashmedai why, when he saw the blind man straying, he so promptly interfered to guide him? He replied: "Because it was proclaimed in heaven that such a man was perfectly righteous, and that whosoever did him a good turn would earn the title to a place in the world of the future ... .. But when thou sawest the man overcome with wine wandering out of the way, why didst thou put him right again?" Ashmedai said: "Because it was made known in heaven that the man was thoroughly bad, and that he might not lose all, I did him this service in order that he might receive some good in the world that now is." "Well, why didst thou weep when thou sawest the merry wedding feast pass?" "Because," said he, "the bridegroom was fated to die within thirty days, and the bride must needs wait thirteen years for her husband's brother, who is now but an infant" (see Deut. xxv., 5-10). "Why didst thou laugh so when the man ordered a pair of shoes which would last him seven years?"
Ashmedai replied: "Because I knew that the man would not live seven days." "And why," asked Benaiab, "didst thou jeer when thou sawest the conjurer at his tricks?" "Because," said Ashmedai, "the man was at that very time sitting over a princely treasure, and he did not, with all his pretensions, know that it was under him." Having once acquired a power over Ashmedai, Solomon detained him till the building of the temple was completed. One day, after this, when they were alone, it is related that Solomon asked him: "What, pray, is your superiority over us, if it be true as it is written (Numb. xxiii., 22), He has the strength of a Unicorn, and the word 'strength," as tradition alleges, means 'ministering angels,' and the word 'unicorn' means `Devils'?" Ashmedai replied: "Take this chain from my neck and give me thy signet ring, and I will soon show thee my superiority."
NO sooner had Solomon done this, in compliance with the request, than Ashmedai snatched him up and swallowed him, and stretching forth his wings one touching the heavens and the other the earth - he vomited him out at a distance of four hundred miles. It is with reference to this time that Solomon says (Ecc. i. 3, ii., 10) "What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? This is my portion of all my labor."
What does the word this mean here? Upon this point Rav and Samuel are at variance, for the one says it means his staff, the other holds that it means his garment, or his water jug, and that with one or other Solomon went from house to house begging; and wherever he came he said (Eccl i., 12): "I, the preacher, was King over Jerusalem." When, in his wanderings, he came to the house of the Sanhedrin, the Rabbis reasoned and said: "If he were mad he would not keep repeating the same thing over and over again. Therefore what does he mean?" They therefore enquired of Benaiah: "Does the King ask thee into his presence?" He replied, "No." They then sent to enquire whether the King visited the Harem? And the answer to this was: "Yes, he comes." Then the Rabbis sent word back that they should look at his feet, for the Demon's feet are like those of a cock. The reply was: "He comes to us in stockings." Upon this information the Rabbis escorted Solomon back to the palace and restored to him the chain and ring, on both of which the name of God was engraved.
Arrayed with these, Solomon advanced straightway into the presence-chamber. Ashmedai sat at that moment upon the throne, but as soon as he saw Solomon enter he took fright and, raising his wings, flew away shrieking back into invisibility. In spite of this Solomon continued in great fear of him, and this explains that which is written (Song of Songs iii., 7, 8), "Behold the bed which is Solomon's, three score valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel. They all hold swords, being expert in war, every man has his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night."
Note - The Shameer is mentioned in Jer. xvii.; Ezek. iii., 9; Zech. vii., 12.
THE END OF HIRAM, KING OF TYRE ACCORDING TO MIDRASH
HIRAM, King of Tyre, was a man of exceeding great pride. What did he? He came to the sea and, in the depth of the sea, made himself four long iron pillars of enormous strength, and placed them one over against the other rectangularly; and he made himself seven heavens and a throne, and the Hayoth thundered with lightnings. The first sky he made of glass, of 500 cubits, and he placed therein sun, moon and stars. The second sky he made of iron, 1,500 cubits by 1,500 cubits, and a volume of water separated the one from the other; he made in it round stones crashing one against the other, with the sound of thunder. The third firmament he made of lead, 2,000 cubits by 2,000 cubits, and a volume of water separated it from the other. The fourth was of metal, 2,000 cubits by 2,000 cubits, and a sheet of water separated it from the other. The fifth was of copper, 3,000 cubits by 3,000 cubits. The sixth he made of silver, 3,500 cubits by 3,500 cubits, and placed therein precious stones and pearls. The seventh he made of gold, 4,000 cubits by 4,000 cubits, and he placed therein the Hayoth and the Cherubim, and also a golden bed, and at its head rubies (red stones) illuminated on each side; he caused lightnings to flash by the movement of one thing against another, there was thundering and lightning.
Then the Almighty said to Ezekiel: "Son of man, go and say to Hiram, wherewithal art thou extolling thyself, son of woman?" Ezekiel said: "How can I go to him when he stands in the air?" Then God sent a wind and Ezekiel was carried by the fringe of his head right up to Hiram, and at once Hiram became agitated, and when he heard the words, "Wherewithal pridest thou thyself, son of woman?" he demanded "How didst thou come hither?" He said: "Through the help of God, who bade me speak thus." Hiram said proudly: "I am a child of woman, but I live forever; even as God has His seat in the midst of the ocean, so I, even as God, have a seat in the seven heavens; nay more, innumerable Kings have died, but I live forever. David resigned 40 years and died, not so I. Solomon reigned 40 years and died, not so I, and 21 Kings of Israel have been buried, but I live on. I am a god and I sit in the seat of gods."
"Truly," said Ezekiel, "great Kings were, and have not done so much. It is like a servant who made a noble garment for his master, whereof he prides himself saying, 'I made it.' What did the King? He said 'I will rend the robe, so that the servant can no longer boast.' " Then Hiram boasted that his cedars made the building of the temple, so God said, "I will destroy my temple, that Hiram may no longer boast." Then He said: "Open, O! Lebanon, thy gates, and let its cedars consume thy cedars." What was the end? God brought Nebuchadnezzar against him, who ravished Hiram's mother before his face; then dragged him from his throne, and cut from his flesh two fingers breadth every day and, dipped in vinegar, ate thereof, till he died a fearful death. And what became of those palaces? The earth was rent asunder and they sank down therein and are reserved as treasure for the righteous to come.
IN Midrash, Bereshith Rabba, we are told that death came into the world because God foresaw that Nebuchadnezzar and Hiram would think they were gods. There is another legend that Hiram was rewarded for providing cedars for the temple with 600 years of life in Paradise.