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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 93a

The righteous are greater than the ministering angels, for it is said, He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the son of God.1

R. Tanhum b. Hanilai said: When Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah emerged unscathed from the fiery furnace, all the nations of the world came and smote the enemies of Israel2  upon their faces, saying to them, 'Ye have such a God, yet ye worship an image!' Immediately they [the apostate Jews] opened their mouths and confessed, O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us shamefacedness, as at this day.3

R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in R. Jonathan's name: What is meant by, I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof?4  'I said, I will go up to the palm tree, [etc.]' this refers to Israel;5  but now I grasped but the one bough of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

R. Johanan said: What is meant by, I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom, etc.?6  What means, 'I saw by night'? — The Holy One, blessed be He, wished to turn the whole world into night,7  'but behold, A man riding'. 'Man' can refer to none but the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written, The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name;8  'upon a red horse' — the Holy One, blessed be He, wished to turn the whole world to blood;9  but as soon as he looked upon Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah his anger was appeased, for it is written, and he stood among [hadasim]10  the myrtle trees that were in the deep. Now 'hadasim' refers but to the righteous, as it is written, And he brought up Hadassah;11  and 'deep' refers to Babylon, as it is said, that sayeth to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers.12  Straightway He who was filled with wrath was partially calmed, and then completely pacified.13  R. Papa said: This shows that a white horse is a favourable omen in a dream.14

Whither did the Rabbis go?15  — Rab said: They died through an evil eye;16  Samuel said: They drowned in the spittle;17  R. Johanan said: They went up to Palestine, married and begat sons and daughters. [This is] as [the dispute] of Tannaim. R. Eliezer said: They died through an evil eye. R. Joshua said: They drowned in the spittle. The Sages said: They went up to Palestine, married and begat sons and daughters, as it is written, Hear now, O Joshua the High Priest and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at.18  Now for which men was a wonder wrought? — Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

Whither had Daniel gone?19  — Rab said: To dig a great spring at Tiberias;20  Samuel said: To procure animal fodder; R. Johanan said: To obtain pigs from Alexandria of Egypt.21  But that is not so. For we learnt that Theodos the doctor said: No cow or pig leaves Alexandria of Egypt without its uterus being cut out, to prevent reproduction.22  — She procured small ones, to which they paid no attention.23

Our Rabbis taught: Three were involved in that conspiracy [to keep Daniel out of the furnace]: The Holy One, blessed be He, Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar. The Holy One, blessed be He, said: 'Let Daniel depart hence, lest it be said that they were delivered through his merit.'24  Daniel said: 'Let me go from here, that I be not a fulfilment of, the graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire.'25  Whilst Nebuchadnezzar said: 'Let Daniel depart, lest people say he has burnt his god in fire.' And whence do we know that he worshipped him? — From the verse, Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel etc.26

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, which prophecy a lie unto you in my name etc.27  And it is written, And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, the Lord make thee like Zedekiah, and like Ahab, whom the King of Babylon roasted in the fire.28  Not 'whom he burnt', but 'whom he roasted,' is written. R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Yohai: This teaches that he made them like parched sheaves of corn.29

Because they have committed villainy in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives etc.30  What did they do? They went to Nebuchadnezzar's daughter: Ahab said to her, 'Thus saith God, "Give thyself unto Zedekiah;"' whilst Zedekiah said to her, 'Thus saith God, "Surrender to Ahab."' So she went and told her father, who said to her, 'The God of these hates unchastity: when they [again] approach thee, send them to me.' So when they came to her, she referred them to him. 'Who told this to you?' asked he of them. 'The Holy One, blessed be He,' replied they. But I have enquired of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who informed me that it is forbidden.' They answered, 'We too are prophets, just as he: to him He did not say it, but to us.' 'Then I desire that ye be tested, just as Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were,' he retorted. 'But they are three, whilst we are only two,' they protested.31  'Then choose whom ye wish to accompany you,' said he. 'Joshua the High Priest,' they answered, thinking, 'Let Joshua be brought, for his merit is great, that he may protect us.' So he was brought, and they were all thrown [into the furnace]. They were burned, but as to Joshua the High Priest, only his garments were singed, for it is said, And he shewed me Joshua the High Priest standing before the angel of the Lord;32  and it is written, And the Lord said unto Satan, the Lord rebuke thee, O Satan etc.33  [Thus] said he to him, 'I know that thou art righteous, but why should the fire have affected thee even slightly; Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were not affected at all.' 'They were three,' said he, 'but I am only one.'34  'But,' he remonstrated, 'Abraham [too] was only one.' 'No wicked were with him, so the fire was not empowered [to do any harm]; but here, I had wicked men with me, so the fire was enabled [to do its work],' he rejoined. Thus people say, 'If there are two dry billets and one wet one, the former burn the latter.' Now why was he [thus] punished? — R. Papa said: Because his sons married wives unfit for the priesthood; and he did not protest, as it is said, Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments.35  Now, surely it was not his wont to wear filthy garments! But this intimates that his sons married women unfit for the priesthood and he did not forbid them.

R. Tanhum said: Bar Kappara expounded in Sepphoris:36  What is meant by, These six of barley gave he to me?37  What are 'six of barley'? Shall we say it is meant literally?38  But was it Boaz's practice to give [only] six barley grains?

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Ibid. 25. Thus the angel is mentioned last, as being least esteemed.
  2. A euphemism for the Jews who had worshipped the image set up by the king.
  3. Ibid. IX, 7.
  4. Cant. VII, 9.
  5. Who should have been as full of righteousness as a palm tree of dates.
  6. Zech. l, 8.
  7. Because the people had bowed down to the image set up by Nebuchadnezzar.
  8. Ex. XV, 3.
  9. This may be based upon either the similarity in Hebrew of blood (dam, [H]) and red (adom, [H]) or the natural association of blood with redness.
  10. [H]
  11. [H] Esth. II, 7; the reference is to Esther.
  12. Isa. XLIV, 27, i.e., to Babylon, situated in a hollow.
  13. I.e., metaphorically, the redness of his anger gave way to more subdued tints, denoting partial calm, and then became white, a sign of complete appeasement.
  14. Since the white horse signifies complete appeasement.
  15. I.e., Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; after emerging from the furnace, they are never mentioned again.
  16. The belief that the eye has power to effect harm, whether through excessive admiration or astonishment, as here, or by actual malignant intent, was and is widespread among many peoples. Rab's statement here is in accordance with his dictum in B.M. 107b that ninety-nine people out of a hundred die through an evil eye.
  17. V. supra; when the nations expressed their scorn of the apostates, they spat at them, and so much spittle collected, that the three heroes were drowned in it. It is hard to believe that this is meant to be taken seriously; it is more probably said in a humorous vein; v. Lazarus, Ethics of Judaism, 48a, p. 62, and Appendix 9, pp. 256ff on 'Humour in the Talmud.' Maharsha explains that this is metaphorical. The heroes, having by their action caused Israel to be spat upon, died to save them from further disgrace.
  18. Zech. III, 8.
  19. Not being mentioned in connection with this story.
  20. Another meaning (based probably on a different reading), 'laboriously to dig a canal in the mountain side.'
  21. Which were of a distinguished breed. Perhaps this is a tilt at certain Alexandrians.
  22. The Alexandrians being anxious for the monopoly of that breed (Bek. 28b; v. supra, 33a). How then could Daniel have obtained them?
  23. Not thinking that these would be required for breeding purposes.
  24. Whereas they were delivered through their own.
  25. Deut. VII, 25. Nebuchadnezzar had exalted him to a deity.
  26. Dan. II, 46.
  27. Jer. XXIX, 21.
  28. Ibid. 22.
  29. I.e., he burnt them to a cinder.
  30. Ibid. 23.
  31. The combined merit of three may be sufficient for a miracle, but not of two.
  32. Zech. III, 1.
  33. Ibid. 2.
  34. V. p. 624, n. 8.
  35. Ibid. 3.
  36. Sepphoris, Heb. [H], derived its name from the fact that it was perched, bird-like, on a mountain. It is identified with the modern Saffusiah, a village north-west of Nazareth.
  37. Literal rendering of Ruth III, 17.
  38. I.e., six grains of barley.
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Sanhedrin 93b

But [if it means] six se'ahs,1  can a woman take six se'ahs?2  — But he symbolically intimated to her [by giving her six barley grains] that six sons were destined to come forth from her, who should each be blessed with six blessings. Viz, David, Messiah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. David, for it is written, Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse, the Bethlemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and understanding in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him.3  And Rab Judah said in Rab's name: This whole verse was said by Doeg with nothing but evil intent.4  Thus: 'that is cunning in playing' — skillful in asking questions [of law]; 'a mighty valiant man' — an adept in answering them; 'a man of war' — well versed in the battle of the Torah;5  'understanding in matters' — understanding [how to deduce] one thing from another; 'and a comely person' — who sustains his ruling by weighty reasons;6  'and the Lord is with him' — everywhere the halachah is determined in accordance with his views.7  With respect to all he replied, My son Jonathan is equally so. But when he said, 'And the Lord is with him' — a privilege which even he himself did not enjoy,8  — he felt humiliated and envied him. For in the case of Saul it is written, And whithersoever he turned about, he vexed them,9  whereas of David it is said,' And whithersoever he turned about, he prospered.10

Whence do we know that this was Doeg? — Here is written, Then answered one of the servants, implying one distinguished from the other young men; whilst elsewhere it is written, Now a man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord; and his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul.11

The Messiah — as it is written, And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge of the fear of the Lord. And shall make him of quick understanding [wa-hariho] in the fear of the Lord.12  R. Alexandri said: This teaches that he loaded him with good deeds and suffering as a mill[is laden].13  Raba said: He smells [a man] and judges,14  as it is written, and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears, yet with righteousness shall he judge the poor.15

(Bar Koziba16  reigned two and a half years, and then said to the Rabbis, 'I am the Messiah.' They answered, 'Of Messiah it is written that he smells and judges: let us see whether he [Bar Koziba] can do so.' When they saw that he was unable to judge by the scent, they slew him.)

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, as it is written of them, In whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.17  What is meant by in whom there was no blemish? — R. Hama b. Hanina said: They did not even bear the scar made by bleeding. What is the meaning of and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace? — R. Hama b. Hanina said: This teaches that they restrained themselves from levity, conversation, and sleep, and suppressed the call of Nature out of royal respect.

Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.18  — R. Eleazar said: They were all of the children of Judah; but R. Samuel b. Nahmani said: Daniel was of the tribe of Judah, whilst Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were of the other tribes.19

And of thy sons which shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away: and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon.20  What is meant by 'eunuchs'? — Rab said: Literally eunuchs. R. Hanina said: In their days the idols were sterilized.21  Now, according to the opinion that the idols were sterilized in their days, it is well to state, And there is no hurt in them.22  But on the view that 'eunuchs' is literally meant, what is meant by, And there is no hurt in them?23  — No hurt of fire. But is it not written, nor the smell of fire had passed on them?24  They were neither hurt [by the fire] nor even smelled thereof. Now according to the opinion that the idols were sterilized in their days, it is well to write, For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths.25  But on the view that 'eunuchs' is literally meant, would Scripture recount the shame of the righteous? — There were both among them.26

Now, the literal rendering is in conformity with the verse, [Even unto them will I give] in mine house, and within my walls a place, and a name better than of sons and of daughters.27  But on the view that the idols were sterilized in their days, why state 'better than of sons and of daughters'?28  — R. Nahman b. Isaac answered: [Better] than the children whom they had formerly possessed, but had died.

What is meant by, I shall give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off?29  — R. Tanhum said: Bar Kappara expounded in Sepphoris: This alludes to the Book of Daniel, which was named after him.

Now let us consider. The whole subject matter of [the book of] Ezra was narrated by Nehemiah the son of Hachalia; why then was the book not called by his name?30  — R. Jeremiah b. Abba said: Because he claimed merit for himself, as it is written, Think upon me, my God, for good.31  But did not David say likewise, Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people; O visit me with thy salvation?32  — David [merely] supplicated in prayer.33  R. Joseph said:34  Because he spoke disparagingly of his predecessors, as it is written, But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread, and wine, beside forty shekels of silver etc.35  Moreover, he spoke thus even of Daniel, who was greater than he. And whence do we know that Daniel was greater than he? From the verse, And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.36  'For the men that were with me saw not the vision:' now who were these men? — R. Jeremiah — others say R. Hiyya b. Abba — said: Haggai, Zecharia and Malachi.37

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. For if it refers to a measure, se'ah must be understood, it being the measure generally used on the field and in the threshing floor. (Rashi).
  2. She cannot carry such a heavy weight.
  3. I Sam. XVI, 18. The six epithets viz., cunning in playing, a mighty, valiant man, etc., are regarded as blessings applicable to each of the six persons mentioned.
  4. That these praises should excite Saul's jealousy.
  5. I.e., in Biblical dialectics.
  6. Lit., 'shows a face in halachah'.
  7. To the Rabbis there were no higher virtues than those pertaining to study, thus they homiletically interpreted a series of military and other virtues as referring to the Torah.
  8. That his ruling should be accepted as the halachah.
  9. Ibid. XIV, 47.
  10. There is no such verse in the Bible. Possibly it is a misquotation or a copyist's error of and David behaved himself wisely in all his ways (ibid. XVIII, 14). Thus David was 'wise, i.e., his view always became halachah, whereas Saul merely 'vexed them,' i.e., he was a redoubtable opponent in halachah, yet was not successful in having his views adopted.
  11. Ibid. XXI, 8. Thus 'a man,' i.e., 'one distinguished,' is the epithet applied to Doeg.
  12. Isa. XI, 2f.
  13. This is a play of words on [H] (wa-hariho) and [H] (rehayyim).
  14. Thereby definitely knowing whether he is guilty or innocent. [H] is thus derived from [H] reah, smell.
  15. Ibid. 3f. Since he uses neither his eyes nor his ears, he must judge through his sense of smell.
  16. Bar Koziba was the leader of the third war against Rome in the reign of Hadrian, which terminated disastrously at Bethar (132-135 C.E.). Many scholars believe that this name was derived from Chezib (Gen. XXXVIII, 5) or Chozeba (I Chron. IV, 22). Others believe that it means 'Son of Lies,' bestowed upon him after the tremendous defeat which he sustained, and on account of his alleged claims to be the Messiah. Probably, however, Kozeba was an actual patronym, which was thus disparagingly applied to him (Lam. R. II, 2). He is also referred to as Bar Cochba, but this was certainly merely because R. Akiba applied to him the verse, There shall come a star (kokab) out of Jacob (Num. XXIV, 17). The revolt met with initial success, and Bar Koziba maintained his independence for some time. [Our sources do not agree as to the length of his reign, varying between two and a half years as in our text, and three and a half (so Seder 'Olam according to reading of Dei Rossi). Derenbourg, Essai (v. pp. 413 and 431) gives preference to the period given in the Talmud. Graetz, Geschichte iv, 418, accepts three and a half years as the total duration of the war, but gives only one year to the actual siege of Bethar. It is nevertheless possible that the last year, marking the disastrous siege of Bethar, was omitted in the Talmudic statement on the length of his 'reign.']
  17. Dan. I, 4.
  18. Ibid 6.
  19. In Heb. the verb [H] (rendered 'they were') is singular. Thus be does not accept the homiletical interpretation of 'six barley grains' as stated above.
  20. II Kings XX, 18; Isa, XLIX, 7.
  21. I.e., their impotency was demonstrated.
  22. Dan. III, 25; v. next note.
  23. Since castration itself, which eunuchs underwent, is a hurt.
  24. Ibid. 27, which renders the former verse on this interpretation superfluous.
  25. Isa. LVI, 4.
  26. Among those who were exiled to Babylon, some were actually castrated for eunuchs, and others lived to see the 'sterilization of the idols', and Isa. LVI, 4 refers to the latter.
  27. Ibid. 5.
  28. Seeing that they had children. Here it cannot be answered that there were both among them, as above, for in that case there is no conflict at all between Rab and R. Hanina (Rashi).
  29. Ibid.
  30. The reference is to the Book of Nehemiah, as it is, in fact, called in our canon. It is evident from this query that according to the Talmudic canon it was called Ezra. In some canons it bears the title Esdras II or Esdras III.
  31. Nehem. V, 19.
  32. Ps. CVI, 4.
  33. Whereas Nehemiah was boasting.
  34. Reverting to the question why the Book does not bear his name.
  35. Nehem. V, 15.
  36. Dan. X, 7.
  37. Since he was vouchsafed the vision, whilst they were not, he was greater than they, though they were prophets; hence he was certainly greater than Nehemiah, who was not a prophet.
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