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Death, Burial, and Mourning. 817 



BELIEFS, RITES, AND CUSTOMS OF THE JEWS, 
CONNECTED WITH DEATH, BURIAL, AND 
MOURNING. 

(as illustrated by the blble and later jewish 

Literature.) 



It is almost inevitable that any statement published 
with emphatic and persistent iteration, provided it be 
invested with the semblance of intrinsic probability, should 
sooner or later find general acceptance as an established 
fact. It is thus that a one- voiced postulate so often de- 
velops into a universal axiom; that assertion sinks its 
individuality in tradition, and tradition is merged in history. 

It has repeatedly been alleged against the Jewish race, 
that they have from time immemorial displayed an 
abnormal fear of death. Even recently, Professor Max 
Mtiller stated (GifFord Lectures, 1891) that death was con- 
sidered by the Jews as the greatest of misfortunes. " To 
rejoice in death is a purely Christian, not a Jewish idea " 
(p. 369). 

Again, Ca,non Awdry remarks, in the Cambridge Com- 
panion to the Bible, 1893: "When the time came that a 
man must die, death had a gloom and terror even for the 
best Israelite, which for Christians it has lost " {Domestic 
and Social Ordinances of the Jeics, p. 170). 

The Jew himself can rest satisfied with the reflection 
that he has taught his fellow-men how to live, and may 
forbear from disputing the claim of others to have shown 
mankind how to die. 

But an unprejudiced representation of historical facts is 



318 The Jewish Quarterly Renew. 

always welcomed by those who regard truth as the ultima 
thule of the pursuit of all knowledge. Hence the raison 
d'etre of this somewhat protracted introduction. 

Who could fail to recognise the inimitable beauty of the 
New Testament conception of death, so splendidly illus- 
trated in their own lives by those who expounded it ? But, 
is it really the case that the ancient Jews — to borrow an 
immortal expression of Dante's — " had not the hope to die ? " 
Do not their records teem with noble instances of sons 
and daughters of Israel, who faced the supreme moment 
with that inflexible courage which is only born of un- 
wavering faith ? 

As a matter of fact, the Old Testament does not afford 
a single example of any prominent Israelite (must we 
except Hezekiah ?) having manifested a craven fear of 
death. 

The Patriarchs are " gathered to their fathers," (a phrase 
in itself suggestive of trustful confidence in a blissful here- 
after), without a murmur of disappointment or regret 
(Gen. xxv. 8, xxxv. 29, xlix. 33). 

One of the most sublimely pathetic passages in the Bible 
is that which describes Moses in the solemn hour when 
he was told that he must depart from this world without 
entering the Promised Land, the goal of his hopes and 
aspirations (Numbers xxvii. 16). 

And who that has studied the principles and teachings 
of the prophets, as set forth in their imperishable writings, 
could harbour for one moment the idea that the ancient 
seers of Israel were at all scared by their removal from the 
sphere of their earthly labours ? 

" I will ransom them from the power of the grave j I 
will redeem them from death. O death, where are thy 
plagues ? O grave, where is thy destruction ? " 

Surely this eloquent outburst of Hosea's might reason- 
ably be taken as an index to the feeling with which the 
prophets of Israel contemplated the close of their 
ministrations on earth. 



Death, Burial, and Mourning. 319 

It is true that Job calls death " the king of terrors " 
(Job xviii. 14) ; but, after all, it is in this light that death 
is universally regarded by the human race. 

" The weariest and most loathed worldly life 
That age, ache, penury and imprisonment 
Can lay on nature, is a paradise 
To what we fear of death." 

(Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act III., Scene 1.) 

Now and then, too, a melancholy Psalmist or the 
pessimistic Koheleth gives voice to the despondency which 
frequently fastens upon the spirit of man at the approach 
of death. 

But. no sooner has the echo of an isolated wail of 
despair died away, than the minstrel of hope wafts to our 
ears the dulcet notes of an ascending scale which culmin- 
ates in God. 

" My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God : when shall I 
come and appear before God ? " 

Psalm xlii. 2. 

" Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow oP death, 
I will fear no evil ; for thou art with me : 
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." 

Psalm xxiii. 4. 

" Thou shalt .... afterward receive me to glory. 



My flesh and my heart f aileth : but God is the strength of my 
heart and my portion for ever." 

Psalm lxxiii. 24-26. 

" My heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth 

For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol, 
Neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 
Thou wilt show me the path of life : 
In thy presence is fulness of joy ; 
In thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." 

Psalm xvi. 9, 10, 11. 
Here, as Mr. Claude Montefiore truly remarks, "is 



320 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

the temper clearly manifest which could withstand the 
scaffold and the stake." 

And, passing on to post-Biblical times, one has only to 
scan the thrilling chronicles of the Maccabasan age to 
satisfy an impartial mind that the Jews of that period were 
able to respond to the call of death with heroic serenity. 

When a Jewish mother saw seven of her sons in turn led 
to the slaughter, she could summon sufficient fortitude to 
exclaim, "Rather let me see them all perish one by one 
than that any of them should transgress the laws of his 
fathers " (cf . 2 Mace. vii. ; T.B. Gittin, 57 b). 

The Rabbis, too, were in this respect not unworthy of 
their sires. " When Aqiba was being led out to execution, it 
was the time of reading the Shema', and they were combing 
his flesh with combs of iron, and he was receiving upon 
him the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven (i.e., reciting the 
Shema'). To his disciples who remonstrated, 'Thus far 
thou hast endured enough ; ' ' All my days,' said he, ' I 
have been troubled about this verse : " Thou shalt love the 
Lord .... with all thy soul," even if he should take 
awav thy spirit. When, said I, will it be in my power to 
fulfil this ? Now that I have the opportunity, shall I not 
fulfil it ? ' " (T. B. Berachoth 61b, quoted in Pirqe Aboth, 
ed. Taylor, p. 68, note 31. See also the noble speech of 
Eleazar recorded in Josephus, Wars of Jews, VII. viii. 6). 
Even in their last moments the Rabbis were accustomed to 
pursue their life-absorbing study — the Torah — unappalled 
by fear of their advancing foe (T. B. Shabbath, 83b). And 
it is suggestive that in Bereshith Rabba (ix. 5 and 10) the 
expression — 

And lo, it was very good (Gen. i. 31), 

is interpreted as referring to the Angel of Death. 

We must also not forget that the earliest Christian mar- 
tyrs, whose blood formed the seed of the Church, were them- 
selves either Jews by birth or but narrowly removed from 
Jewish ancestors. 



Death, Burial and Mourning. 321 

Coming to still later times, a glance at Zunz's spirit- 
stirring essay " Leiden " (embodied in Die Synagogale Poesie 
des Mitttlalters) will convince us of the joyous fearlessness 
with which the sons and daughters of Israel in the Middle 
Ages faced the most terrible death rather than renounce 
their faith. 

It is true that in that labyrinthine library — the Talmud 
— one comes across an occasional passage (cf., e.g., T. B. 
Berachoth, 56, 28?; Kethuboth 1036, and Aboth de M. Nathan, 
ed. Schechter, Recens. 1, ch. xxv.) which indicates that 
certain Rabbis partook of ordinary human weakness, and 
could not meet death without flinching. (See, however, 
Montefiore, ffibbert Lectures, p. 482.) But let us consider 
all that the advent of death implied to a Jew in days of 
old. It betokened his removal from the congregation of 
the Lord ere the brilliant destiny promised to his people 
had been fulfilled; the silencing of his voice which de- 
lighted in continually chanting thepraises of the Guardian of 
Israel (cf. Is. xxxviii. 18 ; Ps. lxxxviii. 11) ; his divorce from 
the beloved Torah and the manifold blessings conferred by 
the study of its teachings; the blighting of a passionate 
hope to witness the ineffable glory of Messiah's reign, as 
well as the interruption of his life-work ere he had assured 
himself of the guerdon which is vouchsafed to the righteous 
in Paradise. 

It is not my purpose, however, to discuss exhaust- 
ively the Jewish conception of death at any epoch in the 
history of Israel. I have only endeavoured to show that 
it is unsafe to deduce from a few scattered expressions in 
the Bible the death-conception of a whole nation of such 
venerable antiquity through all the varying stages of its 
evolution. It were just as absurd to attempt to prove 
from Matthew xxvii. 16 and Luke xxii. 44, without 
reference to other passages, or to the evidence of history, 
that Christians were not taught to meet death with the 
equanimity of a Stoic philosopher. 

I now propose to give a sketch of beliefs, rites, and 

VOL. vi. X 



322 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

customs of the Jews, connected with death, burial, and 
mourning, as illustrated by the Bible and later Jewish 
literature. 

I have found it impossible to treat the subject ade- 
quately within the compass of an essay, but I intend at 
some future date to extend the range of my researches, and 
to deal with many points of interest which I have been 
compelled either to pass over altogether, or to touch upon 
but lightly in the pages that follow. 

II. 

As the Angel of Death may be said to represent the 
spring and pivot of most of the legendary traditions 
which we shall have to pass under review, it seems fitting 
to acquaint ourselves first of all with his complex 
personality, his mysterious methods, and his prodigious 
powers. 

It was only natural that the form of death which 
presented itself to the vivid imagination of the Semitic 
races should have been what Mr. Herbert Spencer calls 
" personalised death." 

The expression " Angel of Death " does not, it is true, 
occur in the Bible, although the plural i"0.» "'Sfcfi'O is to 
be found in Pro v. xvi. 14, where it is no doubt employed 
in the general sense of vehicles of destruction. It is 
interesting to note that the Septuagint in loco has the 
singular, showing the influence of a popular belief of later 
times on the translator. 

But although the Angel of Death is not mentioned 
expressly by name in the Old Testament, death is fre- 
quently personified throughout its pages. Of. 1 Sam. 
xx. 31 ; xxvi. 16 ; 2 Sam. xii. 5 ; xix. 29 ; Isai. xxviii. 
15, 18 ; Hab. ii. 5 ; Ps. xlix. 15 ; lv. 5 ; Pro v. xiii. 14 ; 
xiv. 27; xvi. 14; Job xviii. 13; xxviii. 22 (Targ. 

Death is also referred to under various figures, as shown 



Death, Burial and Mourning. 323 

by the Targiim and the Rabbinic commentaries. Thus the 
Targ. on Ps. xci. 5 paraphrases 70S — HTI1B -]*6m HTTfl ]». 
The Midrash Rabba on the Song of Songs explains the 
word tyt^'nn, in Deut. v. 20, as symbolical of death. Like- 
wise Shemoth Bab. (ii. 4) interprets '?T$n in the verse, " and 
darkness was upon the face of the deep " (Gen. i. 3), as 
being equivalent to death, which darkens the face of man. 
Again the Targum on Habakkuk renders "O^ T^> YOS*? 
(iii. 5), " From before him was sent the Angel of Death " 
(Peskitta : " motha ") ; while the verse, " Then I returned 
and saw vanity under the sun" (Eccl. iv. 7), is ex- 
plained in Kolieleth Rabba as referring to the spear 
of the Angel of Death. (Some translate the word expres- 
sing spear in the Midrash, viz., NrvpN, " flag " = Gk. Sept?. 
Cf. Shakespeare, Borneo and Juliet, Act V., Sc. 3: 
" And death's pale flag is not advanced there.") In 
Psalm xci. 3, Death is introduced under the simile of E^PV 
" fowler," one who lays snares (cf. 2 Sam. xxii. G ; Ps. xviii. 
6, " The snares of death came upon me "). He may also be 
alluded to in Prov. xvii. 11, as "H??N tfS??9, and v. 9, v "!??tf 1 ?, 
the Midrash Mishle on the latter verse explaining : "Thou wilt 
be handed over to a cruel angel." The Targum on Eccles. v. 
5, likewise paraphrases T^SO N!? 1 ? by N"iON NDNba Ulp. 
It is possible, however, that "HJP8 TT^E is rather identical 
with the angel btfnptf r Vn?«, " Herald of God," whose 
function it is to call out (KtjpvcraeLv) in Heaven (vide Levy's 
Neuhebr. und Chald. Worterbuch, I. 786). 

In 2 Sam. xxiv. 16, and the parallel passage 1 Chron. xxi. 
15, we meet the phrase .fTrrpan tyStViab, which probably 
represents the primitive conception of the Angel of Death. 
(Targum in loco, STI1S1 VQibti). For it is almost certain 
that originally "to the mind of the Israelite, death and 
pestilence took the personal form of the destroying Angel 
who smote the doomed " (Tylor, Primitive Culture, vol. I., 
p. 267). See 1 Cor. x. 10, where death is described as 
oXodpevTrjs. Likewise, in the sacred books of the Persians, 
Agromainyus (later Aharman or Ahriman), who is " full 

x 2 



324 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

of death," signifies " the destroyer," in contradistinction 
from Ahuramazda, i.e. Cpentomainyus, the spirit that 
generates (Kohut, TJeber die Judische Angelologie und 
Demonologie, p. 18). Moreover, "the Sanscrit mrityu, 
' death,' comes from the root niri or mar, to grind down, 
to destroy, and means originally no more than the 
agent of destruction " (Anthropological Religion, Max 
Muller, p. 140). 

In several places in the Old Testament and in two pas- 
sages in the Apocrypha, " the destroying Angel " is digni- 
fied by the title "Angel of the Lord" (Cf. 2 Kings xix. 85 ; 
Isai. xxxvii. 36 ; Ps. xxxv. 5, 6 ; 1 Chr. xxi. 12, 30; Hist, 
of Susanna, 55, 59). " The author of Ecclesiastes (close of 
Persian period) represents the destroying Angel as the 
Minister of God " (Bamptnn Lectures, Cheyne, p. 335). In 
2 Chr. xxxii. 21, he is designated simply TfKpcs. 

But by gradations, the Jews, like the Greeks and 
Romans, personified the various forces of evil of whose 
existence they had any sensible experience, and thus, in 
process of time, they peopled the imaginary realms of 
Hades with a host of malignant demons. Hence arose 

the D^iT-TE or n"?30 NPfc? 1 ?!?, who are so numerous that 
every man has a thousand on his left hand and a myriad 
on his right (T. B, Berach, 6a). The phrase ts^fl "*;?$>£ 
is already to be met with in Ps. lxxviii. 49 ; and in the 
Book of Jubilees or the smaller Genesis (Ed. Dillmann 
in Ewald's Jahrbucher der Biblischen Wissenschaft, II. and 
III., Ch. x.) Noah prays to be preserved from the 
destroying spirits. 

In Job xxxiii. 22, the DVTpj? are, according to Ibn 
Ezra, the Angels of Death who annihilate the life of man ; 
but this is doubtful. The Mid. mtn nt&3?» goes so far as 
to enumerate six Angels of death (vide Kolbo §118 and 
Beth Ha-Mid. Jellinek, i. 157) and we have already seen 
that the plural rilJD ""SsVs occurs in Pro v. xvi. 14. 

The popular imagination having thus established an 
extensive empire of evil spirits, it followed as a matter of 



Death, Burial and Mourning. 325 

course that the Angel of Death, who impersonated the 
sumrnum malum, was exalted to the position of sovereign 
and endowed with supreme power. 

Hence he became synonymous with Sammael, who is 
entitled : — 

I. The greatest piince in Heaven (Pirqe M. Eliezer, 
ch. xiii.). 

II. Chief of all the Satans (Deb. Rab. xi. 4 rrvtoS arrria 
ri'V "CO") nt»a Beth Ha-mid. Jellinek, i. 125 ; cf. Matt. ix. 
34 and parallel passages) corresponding to the " Daeva 
of Daevas " in Parsic literature. 

The name Sammael, which is of frequent occurrence in 
Kabbinical writings and is also to be found several times 
in the Ascensio Isaise (Ed. Dillmann), is generally supposed 
to be compounded of 00 " poison " and '*5 " God," i.e. 
supreme poison. This etymology is based on the belief 
that Sammael, the Angel of Death, puts an end to man's 
existence by the infusion of a drop of gall or wormwood, 
"the poison whereof his spirit drinketh up" (T. B. 
Aboda Sara, 206). Observe the recurring expression to 
iriKpbv irorrfpiov tov davdrov in the Testament of Abraham 
(Ed. James, note on p. 55 ff.). 

The belief in the death-producing effect of a certain 
poisonous water seems to be very ancient, and no doubt the 
mythical drop employed by the Angel of Death to put an 
end to human life is connected therewith. 

Josephus tells us ( Wars of the Jews, IV. viii. 3), " There 
is a fountain by Jericho that runs plentifully, and is very 
fit for watering the ground ; it arises near the old city, 
which Joshua, the son of Nun, the general of the Hebrews, 
took the first of all the cities of the land of Canaan, by 
right of war. The report is that this fountain, at the 
beginning, caused not only the blasting of the earth and 
the trees, but of the children born of women ; and that it 
was entirely of a sickly and corruptive nature to all things 
whatsoever, but that it was made gentle and very whole- 



326 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

some and fruitful by the prophet Elisha " (cf. 2 Kings ii. 
21, 22). 

There is also a remarkable passage in the Revelation of 
St. John (viii. 10, 11) : "And the third angel sounded, and 
there fell from heaven a great star, burning as a torch, and 
it fell upon the third part of the rivers and upon the 
fountains of the waters ; and the name of the star is 
called Wormwood, and the third part of the waters became 
wormwood, and many men died of the waters, because they 
were made bitter." This is probably the echo of an old 
tradition. Already in Exodus (xv. 33) we find the Children 
of Israel lighting upon a place, of the waters of which 
they were unable to drink, " for they were bitter ; " and 
in 2 Kings ii. 21 we are told that the prophet Elisha 
went forth to a spring of waters, and healed them, so that 
there should "not be from thence any more death or 
miscarrying." 

It will also be remembered that the woman who " com- 
mits a trespass against her husband " is met by the priest 
with "the water of bitterness that causeth the curse ; " and 
when pronounced guilty, she has to drink the water, which 
" shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall 
swell and her thigh shall fall away " (Num. v. 18, 27). 

Moses, in his farewell address to the Children of Israel 
(Deut. xxix. 17), warns them lest there should be among 
them " a root of bitterness whereof the taste is noisome 
to humanity at large." 

And the prophet Amos, when foretelling the destruction 
of the proud ones of Jacob, reproaches them with having 
turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness 
into wormwood, i.e., brought moral death upon themselves 
(Amos vi. 12). We must likewise not forget the exclama- 
tion of Agag : M^m© It? pM (1 Sam. xv. 32). 

From this belief that the vital spark in man is ex- 
tinguished by a drop of poison, arises the expression, 
" tasting death," which is common to Hebrew, Syriac, and 
Arabic literature. 



Death, Burial and Mourning. 327 

Matt. xvi. 28 : " There be some of them that stand here, 
which shall in no wise taste of death." 

2 Esdr. vi. 26 : " Men, who have not tasted death from 
their birth." 

Bere&h. Bab. ix. 6 : " For the righteous ought not to 
have tasted death (rWT» D2to Diytdb); nevertheless, they 
have accepted the taste of death, in order to punish the 
wicked." 

Apocalypse d'Adam (Renan, in Nouveau Journal Asiatique, 
1853, ii„ p. 446, 1. 4). " Motha ta'em na." 

Koran, Sur. iii. 182 : " Every soul shall taste of death." 

But, to return to the word Sammael, as one of the appel- 
lations of the Angel of Death. 

In some MSS., especially those of Yemen, the name is 
spelt ^satP. Hence it is sometimes explained as derived 
from " semol," " left," representing the evil inclination that 
turns men away from the right path, and is therefore 
identical with Satan (from satah, to turn away). {Guide to 
the Perplexed, Maimonides, Trans. Friedlander, Part II., 
ch. xxx., note.) 

" According to some commentators, it is connected with 
'sama,' 'blind'; Sammael is the element in man that 
makes him blind, and prevents him from seeing the truth. 
That element is the ' imaginative faculty, ' that originates 
in impressions received from material objects." {Ibid) 

Thus death, is first personified as an angel who is the 
agent of human destruction, and this angel subsequently 
assumes the part of the Satan who is ever watching to 
allure man to self-destruction. Hereafter, the Satan 
becomes synonymous with the active principle of evil in 
man, which makes for unrighteousness, being constantly 
represented as the " Origin of Evil in a personal form." 

The rise and development of this conception of death is 
aptly summarised by R. Simon ben Lakisch sin "{tew sin 
man fsba Sin 3nn -I2> and confirmed by a Boraitha 
natw Vtai3i man *?ai3 rnai nbisn nsnai typ (T. B. 
Baba Bathra, 16«). 



328 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

In this connection it is worthy of note that Sammael 
(the Angel of Death) is likewise identified with the serpent 
that brought about the Fall (Gen.iii. 1), called "OlOTpn tpro 
(vide Rev. xx. 2, " The old serpent, which is the Devil and 
Satan " ; Wisdom ii. 23f.; also Talk. Chad., § 78, Kin btflOD 
?t3tP Kin t»n3). Chwolsohn compares Sammael with Smal, 
the greatest god of the heathens of Haran, who is enthroned 

in the northern climate JU»J>, JU-i,' Mat& (Ssabier II, 
59ff., etc.). 

We must not labour under the impression, however, that 
Satan, the Angel of Death, was fashioned by Him whom the 
prophet represents to be 3?"J H")2 (Isaiah xlv. 7) as the fons 
et origo of evil. He was originally one of the greatest 
princes of heaven, until his own vicious deeds brought 
about his dethronement and degradation. (Pirqe B. Eliezer, 
ch. xiii.) 

Satan — so call him now ; his former name 
Is heard no more in heaven. 

Milton, Paradise Lost, V., 658. 

We shall now proceed to consider the threefold aspect 
under which death is presented in Jewish writings. We 
shall then see that njBO *!*£>», ^»D, 'Jtpip and 3n,n "i^?. 
are interchangeable terms in post-Biblical literature. 

Sammael -Satan is both seducer and destroyer. He it is 
who is to be held responsible for having brought death 
into the world ; and ever since that time he has been the 
arch-adversary of man, tempting him to sin, and sub- 
sequently denouncing him before God. He sprang to earth 
on the back of the serpent, appearing in the form of a 
camel, and coming to Eve he enticed her to eat of the fruit 
of the Tree of Life, and Eve having touched the tree, beheld 
the Angel of Death standing opposite to her (Beresh. Rab. 
xix. 1, Pirqe B. Eliezer, ch. xiii.). Thus the Targ. Ps. Jonath. 
translates Gen. iii. 6 : " And the woman saw Sammael, the 
Angel of Death, and she was afraid." (Cf. also Koran, 
Sur. ii., Book of Adam and Eve, Ed. Malan, vi. ; and Milton, 



Death, Burial and Mourning. 329 

Paradise Lost, IV. 194 : " Up he flew, and on the Tree of 
Life sat like a cormorant.") 

The tradition has a slightly different complexion in a 
work ascribed to St. Ephraim and known as Die Schatz- 
hohle (Ed. Bezold, i. 6), which says that Satan entered into 
the serpent and dwelt within it, because he felt that Eve 
would flee at sight of " his execrable shape." But as she 
turned towards him, she beheld her likeness reflected in 
his person. 

Satan revealed to Adam and Eve their nakedness (Koran, 
Sur. vii.). He induced Cain to kill his brother Abel, the 
first priest {Die Schatzhohle, Ed. Bezold, i. 8). When God 
commanded Abraham to offer up his only son as a sacrifice 
(Gen. xxii. 2), Sammael appeared to the Patriarch and 
taunted him with having taken leave of his senses {Beresh. 
Bab. vi. 1). He also warned Isaac that the latter was about 
to be killed ( Ibid. lvi. 3). He disclosed to Sarah the deception 
that was being practised upon her, thereby causing her 
death (Pirqe B. Eliezer, ch. xxxii. ; cf. also Rashi on Gen. 
xxiii. 3). The Midrash likewise tells us {Beresh. Bab., 
lviii. 6) that the act of Abraham's rising from before 
his dead, referred to in Gen. xxiii. 3, was due to the fact 
that the Patriarch discerned the Angel of Death standing 
before him. He came to reproach Abraham with having 
brought aboxxt the death of Sarah through the binding of 
Isaac. (See commentaries on Beresh. B. and Beer's Leben 
Abraham's, p. 74.) His particular animosity towards 
Abraham was excited by the fact that he stood behind the 
door on the occasion when the Patriarch gave a banquet to 
the great ones of the earth, and no notice was taken of 
him by Abraham's domestics {Zohar, Ed. Krotoschin, 1. 106). 
Sammael, the Guardian- Angel of Esau, was " the man " 
who wrestled with Jacob {Zohar cited in Talk. Beub. on 
Gen. xxxii. 25). It was he who incited the children of 
Israel to idolatry at the time of the worship of the golden 
calf {Pirqe B. Eliezer, ch. xlv. ; cf. also Koran, Sur. xx. 87, 
90, 96). When Korah and his party rebelled against 



330 The Jewish Quarterly Renew. 

Moses, the Angel of Death wanted to draw his sword 
against Israel, but Moses {i.e., the Tribe of Levi) averted 
the catastrophe (Bemidb. Rab., v. 7). He prevented Moses 
from pronouncing a blessing upon the children of Israel all 
the days of the Prophet's life, until the man of God bound 
him (Pesikta de Rab. Kahana, Ed. Buber, Piska 32). And we 
are told in Midrash Tanchuma (Ed. Buber, Deut. 21b) that 
Moses, ultimately victorious, blessed Israel in presence of 
the Angel of Death. Satan persuaded God to deliver up 
Job into his hands, and the fact that he was invested with 
the power of taking away life is shown by the repeated 
injunction of God : " Only upon himself put not forth thine 
hand " (Job i. 12) ; " Behold, he is in thine hand ; only 
spare his life " (Ibid. ii. 6). " Satan stood up against Israel, 
and moved David to number Israel" (1 Chron. xxi. 1). 
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of " him 
who had the power of death, that is, the devil " (ii. 14). 
And the Jews to this day pray every morning for deliver- 
ance /TnaJSO ■jt^fc, as " Rabbi " used invariably to do at 
the conclusion of his devotions (T. B. Berach, 1Gb). 

In the Book of Jubilees (chap, x.) Satan is called " Mas- 
t&nah," "chief of the destroying host " (from £>W = V$fy, 
a and 3 interchanging in the Semitic languages. Compare 
the use of n»©tp» i n Hos. ix. 7, 8). In chap, xlviii. the 
angel relates how Mastemah wanted to kill Moses on the 
latter's return to Egypt. He tried to deliver Moses into 
the hands of the Egyptians, and it was he who persuaded 
the people to pursue Moses and the Children of Israel 
when they went forth from Egypt. On the fourteenth, 
fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth days, 
Mastemah was bound so that he might perpetrate no mis- 
chief, but on the nineteenth he was set free to harden the 
hearts of the Egyptians, and to entice them to follow the 
Israelites. 

Kohut, in his brilliant essay (p. 72 fol.), shows that Satan 
— Sammael is also used promiscuously with *»HTOB7N 
(Aeshmadai), the personification of moral and physical evil. 



Death, Burial and Mourning. 331 

Thus, a story narrated of Satan in Mid-Abchir on Gen. ix. 
20 and quoted in Talk, on Gen., § 61, is associated with 
Aeshmadai (inac?) in Beresh. Rab. xxxvi. 3 (cf. note 3 by 
Loria.) Another example is to be found in the book of Tobit, 
where Asmodeus kills the seven husbands of Sara in turn. 

And here I may remark that Kohut likewise proves con- 
clusively that the demonology of the ancient Hebrews was 
mainly acquired under Persian influences. The Jews 
" mingled themselves with the nations," and as is evidenced 
by history, easily assimilated heathen ideas, " which 
became a snare unto them." 

A special god, or Angel of Death, is not confined to the 
Jews. In Arabic literature, " Azrael is the Angel of Death, 
who dissevers men's souls from their bodies. Even the 
Chuwahes, a race of Turkish affinity, are stated to rever- 
ence a god of death, who takes to himself the souls of the 
departed, and whom they call Esrel. . . . This deity 
is no other than Azrael, the angel of death, adopted under 
Moslem influence " (Tylor, Primitive Culture, II., p. 301). In 
the Greek and Latin Classics, no mention is made of an 
Angel of Death ; we are, however, familiar with the various 
deities who presided over the realms of the dead in the 
Greek and Roman mythologies. Death, it is true, is 
personified in Eurip. Alkestis, 843, and in Virg. Aen. XL 
197; but probably, in the former instance, the concep- 
tion is not a popular one, but a creation of the poet's own, 
and in the latter, Mors, according to Conington, is practi- 
cally equivalent to Orcus. Other passages are doubtful.. 
In modern Greek literature, " Charos, or Charontas, whose 
name is, of course, identical with Charon, appears in the 
popular tradition as the angel of death and the agent of 
Divine omnipotence" {The Customs and Lore of Modern 
Greece, Rennell Rodd, Chap. IV.). Mohammedan tradition 
alone attempts to explain the Genesis of the Angel of Death. 
" God created the Angel of Death, and separated him from 
the rest of his creatures by a million partition-walls. God 
endowed him with strength greater than that of heaven 



332 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

and earth, and he was therefore bound with seventy 
thousand chains, each of which corresponded to the space 
of a thousand years. The angels did not approach him, 
and were ignorant of the place of his residence. They 
caught, however, occasional echoes of his voice, but did not 
become personally acquainted with him until the birth of 
Adam. When God created the first man, he appointed the 
Angel of Death as his governor. The Angel of Death 
asked, ' O Lord, what is death ? ' Thereupon the partition- 
walls receded at the command of God, when Death became 
visible to the Angel of Death. Then God addressed the 
Angels : ' Take up your position and look upon this Death.' 
The Angels obeyed, and God said to Death, 'Fly away 
over their heads, and spread out all thy wings, and open 
all thy eyes.' Then Death flew away in sight of the 
Angels, and the latter fell down fainting, and remained in 
that condition for a thousand years. After the lapse of 
that period they recovered themselves, and said to God, 
' O Lord, hast Thou possibly created a being that is 
mightier than this ? ' 'I have indeed created such a one,' 
replied God; 'I, however, am more powerful than he, 
nevertheless, every creature must inevitably taste him.' 
Then God addressed Azrael : ' Thou art he whom I have 
appointed as Ruler over Death.' Whereupon Azrael ex- 
claimed, ' My God, by means of what power shall I lay 
hold of him, since he is stronger than I ? ' Then God con- 
ferred upon him the power of Heaven. The Angel of 
Death accordingly seized hold of Death, and the latter lay 
vanquished in his hand. Then spoke Death : ' Lord, 
pray grant me permission to let my voice resound but once 
in Heaven.' God complied, when Death cried in loudest 
tones, ' I am Death, who divorces friend from friend, man 
from woman, husband from wife; who wrests daughters 
from the embrace of their mothers, sons from fathers, and 
brothers from sisters; who subdues the mighty among 
mankind, causing graves to become inhabited, and making 
desolate both houses and castles. I am Death, and " where- 



Death, Burial and Mourning. 333 

soever ye be, death will overtake you, although ye be in 
lofty towers " (Koran, Sur. IV., 80), and there is no creature 
who shall not taste me ' " {Muhamm. Eschat., chap. iii.). It 
is not difficult to recognise that this legend, for which 
Mohammed is held responsible, is simply an amalgam of 
Eabbinic traditions, embellished by the fertile imagination 
of the Arabs. 

The Angel of Death, according to Jewish tradition, is a 
formidable personage. In the first place, he is of gigantic 
proportions. Thus we are told that his stature reaches 
from one end of the world to the other (mrP21 ]TO p raoa, 
Beth Ra-Mid. Jellinek, v. p. 48). If the waters of all seas 
and rivers were to be poured on his head, not a drop would 
remain behind on earth {Muhamm. Eschat, ch. iv.) His 
clothing is of fire, his covering is of fire ; he is in fact all 
fire (-npn ttinn nrD» Beth Ha-Mid. Jellinek, i.). We 
may recall that the appearance of the living creatures 
described by Ezekiel (i. 13) was " like burning coals of fire." 
Compare Milton, Paradise Lost, II. 708, Satan " like a comet 
burn'd," and also the description of Charon in Virg. Aen. 
vi. 300, " His eyes are fixed orbs of fire." " From the sole of 
his foot to the crown of his head, the Angel cf Death is full 
of eyes " (T. B. Aboda Sara, 206 ; -Qpn fc"Dn rDDD, Beth 
Ha-Mid., Jellinek, i. See also the Kitdb es-Sul&k, the Book 
of Travelling to God and to Perfection, quoted in Muhamm. 
Eschat., ch. iv.). R. Aaron Berechya in his well known 
work pai -nyo (Ed. Wilna, 886) remarks : the Angel of 
Death appears to human sight as if he were full of eyes, 
and the reason of this is that man ate of the tree of the 
knowledge of good and evil, for it is written (Gen. iii. 6), 
" it was a delight to the eyes," meaning " to see the Angel 
of Death, who is full of eyes." The creatures of Ezekiel's 
vision were likewise, " full of eyes round about " (Ezek. i. 
18). The vision in Rev. iv. 6, also depicts " four living 
creatures full of eyes." This tradition may have been in 
the mind of Job, when picturing God as his destroyer, he 
exclaimed : " Mine adversary sharpeneth his eyes upon 

me " (Note "TO?^). 



334 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

The Kitab es-SulCtk states that not only is the Angel 
of Death full of eyes, but also of tongues, and there is no 
existing creature among all the beings into whose nostrils 
God has breathed the spirit of life, of whose face, tongue, 
eye and hand, there is not an exact counterpart in the 
person of the Angel of Death. Thus, when anyone dies, 
his eye passes out of the Angel's body, its lustre being, as 
it were permanently dimmed. This book also records a 
tradition that the Angel of Death has a seat in the seventh 
or (according to some) in the fourth heaven, which God 
fashioned out of light. In this connection, we may notice 
that we read in 2 Cor. xi. 14, " Even Satan fashioneth 
himself into an Angel of Light." He also sometimes takes 
the form of an Angel of Light in the Testament of 
Abraham (Ed. James) and in the book of Adam and Eve 
(Ed. Malan, ch. xxvii.). 

According to the Targum on Job (xviii. 7), Sammael (the 
Angel of Death) flies like a bird. He has twelve wings 
{Pirqe It. Eliezer, ch. xiii.), being twice the number of those 
of the Seraphim (cf . Isa. vi. 2). 

Nevertheless, his passage to earth is not so rapid as that 
of some of the other ministering angels. For we are told 
in the Talmud (Bab. Berach, 46), Michael flies to earth at a 
bound ; Gabriel takes two flights, Elijah four, and the 
Angel of Death eight, but in time of pestilence the latter 
also reaches earth in a single flight. 

The dreaded visitant carries a sword as an emblem of his 
gruesome vocation. Thus, in the hour when a man has to 
quit this world, he stands at the head of the sick with 
sword unsheathed, to which a bitter drop clings. When 
the patient discerns his presence he is seized with a fit of 
trembling, in the midst of which he opens his mouth, when 
the Angel takes the opportunity of pouring the bitter drop 
down his throat, and the man immediately dies, turns 
putrid, and his face becomes livid (T.B. Ah. Sar. 20b, roDQ 
napn Elian; Beth Ha-Mid. Jellinek, i.). When Eliphaz 
the Temanite speaks of the wicked being " waited for of the 



Death, Burial and Mourning. 335 

sword " (Job xv. 32), he may be thinking of this notorious 
weapon ; the parallelism would thus be complete. In the 
Book of Chronicles the sword of the Angel of Death is 
occasionally referred to. Thus the angel that is sent to 
destroy Jerusalem stands between the earth and the 
heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand (1 Chron. xxi. 
16). David is afraid to inquire of God in the high place 
at Gibeon, " because of the sword of the Angel of the 
Lord" (ibid. xxi. 80). And, at the command of the Lord, 
the Angel puts up his sword again into the sheath thereof, 
as a sign that he would not carry out the evil purpose 
with which he set out (ibid. xxi. 27). 

Likewise, in the Alkestis of Euripides (843) Death is 
armed with a sword (cf. Macrobius, Saturn, v. 19, "In hac 
fabula in scoenam Orcus (i.e., davdros) inducitur gladium 
gestans "). 

When dogs began to howl it used to be regarded as 
a sign that the Angel of Death was coming into a city 
(T. B. Baba Kqmma, 60S). Hence one is warned not to 
walk in the middle of the street when plague is raging 
in a city, as the Angel of Death struts along there, and, 
being then invested with absolute power, he is free to slay 
indiscriminately. 

The Arabs seem to have shared this belief. " When the 
animal howls without apparent cause in the neighbourhood 
of a house, it forebodes death to one of the inmates ; for 
the dog, they say, can distinguish the awful form of Azrael, 
the Angel of Death, hovering over the doomed abode; 
whereas man's spiritual sight is dull and dim by reason of 
sins " (Pilgrimage to El Medinah and Meccah, Richard F. 
Burton, 1885, II, p. 54). The tradition that the howling 
of the dog presages death is also held by most of the 
Southern Sclavs (Friedrich S. Krauss, in Zeitschr. d. Vereins 
f. Volkslcimde, II., p. 177). In time of pestilence it is like- 
wise dangerous to go alone to the house of Assembly, 
because the Angel of Death is in the habit of depositing 
his weapons therein. This is only the case, however, if 



336 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

children do not read Scripture there, and if ten persons (the 
requisite quorum to form a congregation) do not pray there. 
It is also imprudent to walk on the side-paths when 
peace reigns in a city, because the Angel of Death, being 
then divested of power, secretes himself there ( Baba Kamma, 
606). The poet Longfellow, in the Golden Legend (viii., 
" The Village School "), summarises the characteristics and 
methods of the Angel of Death in a conversation between 
Rabbi ben Israel and Judas : — 

Rabbi : Why howl the dogs at night ? 

Judas : In the Rabbinical book it saith, 

The dogs howl when, with icy breath, 
Great Sammael, the Angel of Death, 

Takes through the town his flight ! 
Rabbi : Well, boy ! now say, if thon art wise, 

When the Angel of Death, who is full of eyes, 
Comes where a sick man dying lies, 

What doth he do to the wight ? 
Judas: He stands beside him, dark and tall, 
Holding a sword from which doth fall 
Into his mouth a drop of gall ; 

And so he turneth white ! 

Yet, notwithstanding the alarming exterior of the Angel 
of Death, it would appear that he had cordial relations 
with certain persons. Thus the Talmud mentions that he 
was in the habit of appearing to R. Chanina bar Papa, 
whose friend he was (T. B. Kethub., 77 b). He was also on 
intimate terms with Rab Baybi bar Abaye(T. B. Chagtga,4:b). 
He seems likewise to have been a friend of Raba's, as the 
following shows : "When Raba was dying he said to his 
brother, Rab Seoram, who stood by : ' Tell the Angel of 
Death not to torture me.' ' Art thou not his confidant V 
replied Rab Seoram. 'Yes,' said Raba, 'but once bad luck 
has set in, I am powerless ' " (T. B. Moed Kat, 28 a). 

The power of the Angel of Death extends to all 
countries and all sorts and conditions of men. Thus 
the author of the Song of Songs can think of no higher 
type of strength with which to compare the force of true 



Death, Burial, and Mourning. 337 

love than death (viii. 6), just as the Psalmist declares 
that the lovingkindness of God is superior to life 
(Ps. lxiii. 4). 

The Midrash Rabba on Koheleth viii. 8 says : Man has 
no power over the spirit (i.e., of the Angel of Death) so as 
to elude his grasp. 

None can plead with the Angel of Death : Wait for me 
until I have arranged my affairs, and I will then ac- 
company thee ; neither can one say to him : I offer my 
son or my servant, or my family in my stead (Ibid.). 

In illustration of the methods of the Angel of Death, a 
remarkable legend is related in T. B. Chagiga 4 b, which is 
thought by some to involve a confused reference to the 
Mother of Jesus (see Chagiga, Streane, p. 18, note 2) : — 

" Rab Baybi bar Abaye heard the Angel of Death saying 
to his servant : Go and bring me Miriam, the women's hair- 
dresser. The servant went and brought Miriam, the 
teacher of young children. I wanted, said the Angel of 
Death, Miriam, the women's hairdresser. Then I will 
take this one back, replied the messenger. Since she has 
once been brought, rejoined the Angel, let her be included 
in the number of my victims. . . . Thereupon Rab 
Baybi bar Abaye asked the Angel of Death: Hast thou 
authority to act thus ? The Angel ' answered : Is it not 
written : There is that is destroyed by reason of injustice ? 
(Prov. xiii. 23.) But, pleaded the Rabbi, it also says 
(Eccl. i. 4) : One generation goeth, and another generation 
cometh. The Angel replied: I shepherd them till the 
measure of life allotted to their generation has been ful- 
filled, and subsequently I hand them over to Dumah. In 
that case, asked the Rabbi, what becomes of the years of 
which thou hast deprived them ? If, answered the Angel, 
there happens to be a distinguished student, who is mag- 
nanimous enough not to insist upon his dignity, I add to 
his life the years which I have taken away from another, 
and thus the equilibrium is adjusted." 

(The curious expression : " I shepherd them," may be 

VOL. VI. Y 



338 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

illustrated by a passage in Mid. Tehillim (Ed. Buber, 515) : 
" There is a place called DIE ~i2n, which derives its name 
from the fact that it is assigned to the departed spirits of 
men. It represents a building with a court-yard, encircled 
by a fence. Before the court-yard flows a river, adjoining 
which is a field. Every day Dumah leads out the spirits 
to pasture in the field and to drink of the river.") 

Yet the power of the Angel of Death is necessarily 
bounded by those limitations which mark every finite 
being. Thus he could not prevail over the Israelites at the 
Giving of the Law, as six hundred thousand angels had 
descended and crowned each of the sons of Israel with the 
crown of Shem-ha-mephorash {Pirqe JR. Eliezer, ch. 47, 
quoted by Dr. Taylor in Pirqe Aboth; cf. also Shemoth 
Babba, li. 2). 

It appears that the Angel of Death is likewise unable to 
enforce his will when confronted by one who is uninter- 
mittingly occupied with the study of Torah. 

And Satan trembles when he sees 
The weakest saint upon his knees. 

Cow per, Exhortation to Prayer. 

Thus he could not approach Babba bar Nachmani (T. B. 
Baba Mezia, SQb). He was in the same difficulty in the 
case of Bab Chisda, whose lips never ceased repeating 
words of Torah. Hence he had recourse to the expedient 
of letting himself down, under a cedar-tree in Bab's House 
of Instruction. He cleft the cedar ; the sound of the crash 
silenced Bab Chisda for a moment, when the Angel over- 
powered him (T. B. Moe>i Kat. 28 a ; in Maccoth 10 a it is 
the messenger of the Angel who acts thus). The Angel of 
Death was likewise unable to overcome Babbi Chija. So 
he disguised himself in the garb of a poor man, and 
knocked at the door for a piece of bread. Babbi Chija 
ordered it to be given him. " Ah ! " said the Angel of 
Death, "thou hast pity on the poor; hast thou none 
for me?" He then revealed himself to Babbi Chija, 
displaying a fiery rod, and took away the Babbi's soul 



Death, Burial, and Mourning. 339 

(T. B. Moed Kat. 28 a). We are also told that on the day 
when David was to depart from this world, the Angel of 
Death took up his position hei'ore the king, hut was unable 
to exercise any charm over him, as David was prosecuting 
his study of Torah with uninterrupted vigour. At length 
the Angel said to himself, "How can I accomplish my 
purpose ? " Discerning that David had an orchard at the 
back of the Royal Palace, he made his way into it and 
shook the trees violently. David went out to see what had 
happened ; he mounted a staircase which gave way under 
his tread, and thus he expired (T. B. Skabb. 30 b). 

There were other circumstances, too, which interfered 
with the fulfilment of the Angel's mission. Thus Rabbi 
Eliezer was eating heave-offering (nipTtfjl ; cf. Exod. xxv. 1) 
when the Angel of Dea,th appeared to him. He addressed 
the Angel : — " Have I not eaten heave-offering, and is it not 
called holy ? " (cf . Numb, xviii. 8). Then his hour passed, 
i.e., the Angel of Death went from him, leaving him un- 
scathed (T. B. Moed Kat. 28 a). 

Another effectual means of evading — at least temporarily 
— the stroke of the Angel of death is the practice of bene- 
volence, anpO rVlV»| (cf. Derech Erez Sutta, Ed. Tawrogi 
IX. 4) " Give alms," says the Targum on Prov. xxi. 14, " so 
that the wrath of the Angel of Death may be averted from 
thee" (cf. Prov. x. 2, n$>» V%& n,^). 

The Talmud mentions certain places which were not 
within the jurisdiction of the Angel of Death. There is a 
tradition that Luz was not subject to the control of death, 
but when the old inhabitants grew weary of life, they used 
to go outside the city walls and die there (T. B. Sota, 46 b). 

It is strange to find a duplicate of this legend among the 
myths of the Middle Ages. "Also in Ireland is a little 
island in which men die not, but when they be overcome 
with age they be borne out of that island to die without " 
(Medieval Lore, Ed. Robert Steel, p. 80). 

A similar narrative is related by Raba, in the name of 
Rabbi Taboth — or, as some call him, Rab Tabyomi (T. B. 

v 2 



340 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

Sanhed. 97 a). " Once it happened that I came into a town 
which was called ' Truth,' the inhabitants of which never 
utter a falsehood, and none of them dies before his appointed 
time. I took unto myself a wife from among them, and had 
by her two children. One day my wife sat combing her hair, 
when her neighbour knocked at the door to inquire after 
her well-being, and I, thinking it were unseemly to admit 
any one under the circumstances, informed the fair visitor 
that my wife was not at home. Shortly afterwards the 
two children died. Then the people of the town came to 
me and asked, ' How has this happened ? ' I explained to 
them the cause, and they said to me, ' Remove, we pray 
thee, from our midst, that thou mayest not excite death 
against us.' " 

Apropos of the foregoing, a strange story is told in T. 
B. Succa (53 a), which also appears in Arabic literature, 
where it is related in illustration of a verse of the Koran 
(Sur. in. 148), " If ye had been in your houses, verily they 
would have gone forth to fight, whose slaughter was 
decreed, to the places where they died." (See Muhamm. 
EscJiat, ch. iv., and Al-Beidawi, quoted by Sale in his 
edition of the Koran, vol. ii., p. 270), " There were two 
Ethiopians at the court of Solomon, as it says (1 Kings iv. 
3) " Elihoriph and Ahijah, the sons of Shisha, were secre- 
taries." One day Solomon perceived the Angel of Death 
looking depressed. He asked, ' Why art thou so gloomy ? ' 
The Angel replied, 'Because these two secretaries should 
fall to the destroying angels.' Thereupon the King said to 
his secretaries, ' Go ye into the district of Luz (which was 
not in the province of the Angel of Death).' They followed 
their Royal Master's advice ; but as they drew near to the 
city of Luz, they fell ill and died. Solomon subsequently 
observed the Angel of Death chuckling. ' Why art thou in 
such a state of glee ? ' asked the King. ' I rejoice,' replied 
the Angel, ' because it was to no good purpose that thou 
didst send out of my reach those of whom I came in 
search.' " 



Death, Burial, and Mourning. 341 

It seems, too, that, notwithstanding the distinct excla- 
mation o£ the Psalmist, " What man is he that shall live 
and not see death; that shall deliver his soul from the 
power of Sheol ? " (Ps. lxxxix. 48), there were certain 
persons who, by the grace of God, did " not see corruption, 
and still live alway." 

The Bible records but two such instances. (1) Enoch 
" was not ; for God took him " (Gen. v. 24 ; cf. Test, of Isaac, 
James, p. 143, where " our father Enoch " is described as 
" the only perfect man who ascended to heaven ''). (2) 
Elijah went up in a whirlwind into heaven (2 Kings ii. 11). 

The veracity of the tradition with regard to the former 
was, strange to say, contested by some of the Teachers of 
the third century (cf. Beresh. Bab. xxv. 1). But the 
creative imagination of other Rabbis was not satisfied even 
with two authenticated cases of translation to Paradise, 
marked by the suspension of a universal law. 

Thus we find it stated in Derech JErez Sutta (ch. I.) that 
nine entered the Garden of Eden without dying, viz. : — 

1. Enoch, son of Jared (Gen. v. 24, and Rashi in loco). 

2. Elijah (2 Kings ii. 11). 

3. Messiah (T. B. Sanhed. 986). 

4. Eliezer, the servant of Abraham (T. B. Bab. Bath. 58a, 
and Rashi's Comm. in loco ; also T. B. Kalla, Ed. Coronel, 
p. 10, and Kerem-Chemed, vii. 215). 

5. Hiram, King of Tyre (probably the artist of same 
name, mentioned in 1 Kings vii. 45 ; cf. T. B. Kalla, pp. 10 
and 19 b, since, according to T. B. Bab. Bath, loa, Beresh. 
Rah. § 96, and Talkut Ez. § 367, Hiram, King of Tyre, was 
cast out by God). 

6. Ebed-Melech, the Cushite (probably because he drew 
Jeremiah out of the pit; cf. Jer. xxxviii. 6-13. According 
to Pirqe B. Eliezer, ch. liii., he is to be identified with 
Baruch, son of Nereia ; cf. Jer. xxxvi. 4). 

1. Jabez, son of Rabbi Jehuda ha-Nasi (neither Jost nor 
Graetz knows of a son of " Rabbi " named Jabez. On the 
other hand, he is enumerated in BLa-Chaluz, ii., p. 89, 



842 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

and in the biographical sketches of R. Jehuda ha-Nasi 
in Mishnayoth i., Ed. Vienna, 1815, and is identified with 
a prematurely deceased son of " Rabbi " in T. B. Kethuboth 
62. According to Kerem-Chemed, vii. 215 sqq. it is Jabez 
of 1 Chr. iv. 10 who is here referred to. In T. B. Temurah 
16 a, the verse 1 Chr. iv. 10, which embodies a request of 
Jabez that was subsequently fulfilled by God, is associated 
with R. Jehuda). 

8. Serach, daughter of Asher (because she is supposed to 
have first communicated to Jacob that Joseph was yet 
alive. See Sefer ha-Jashar on Gen. xlv.). 

9. Bithya, daughter of Pharaoh (the education of Moses 
and Aaron was ascribed to her, hence she received this 
veward). 

Other sages add also Rabbi Joshua ben Levi (cf. T. B. 
Kethub. 17a). 

[The foregoing notes are adapted from Derech JErez Sutta, 
ed. Tawrogi]. 

On the other hand, a Midrash cited in Yalkut Ezek. § 367, 
enumerates (without comment) thirteen who have not 
tasted death : — Enoch ; Eleazer, the servant of Abraham ; 
Methuselah ; Hiram, King of Tyre ; Ebed-Melech, the 
Cushite; Bithya, daughter of Pharaoh; Serach, daughter 
of Asher ; the three sons of Korah ; Elijah ; Messiah ; and 
Rabbi Joshua ben Levi. 

But a more explicit register of " immortals " is to be 
found in Alphabetum Siracidis (M. Steinschneider), 27 ab, 
28b, 29b. From this it appears that the following were 
vouchsafed admittance to Paradise without crossing the 
bridge of death : — 

1. Enoch. Because he was righteous in his generation, so 
that there was none like unto him. 

2. Eleazer, the servant of Abraham. He was the son 
of Ham, son of Noah, and when he heard the curse 
pronounced upon his father, he surrendered himself to 
Abraham, and became a righteous man. 



Death, Burial, and Mourning. 343 

3. Serach, the daughter of Asher. Because she com- 
municated to Jacob that Joseph was yet alive, and the 
Patriarch said to her, " The mouth that has conveyed such 
good tidings shall not taste death." 

4. Bithya, daughter of Pharaoh. She brought up Moses 
from his youth, and in order that people should not have 
to ask what reward did she receive, she had this privilege 
conferred upon her. 

5. Ebed-Melech, the Cushite. Because he rescued Jere- 
miah from the miry pit. 

6. The servant of Rabbi Jehuda ha-Nasi. Because he 
was righteous, gentle, and lowly of spirit. 

7. Jabez. Because he was more righteous than all his 
generation. 

8. Babbi Joshua ben Levi. Because he was a man, 
" integer vitse scelerisque purus," and a friend of the Angel 
of Death. 

9. Hiram, King of Tyre. In view of the fact that he 
built the Temple, and was in the early part of his life a 
God-fearing man, he was granted a home in Paradise for a 
thousand years ; but afterwards, having aggrandised him- 
self, saying, " I am a god," etc., he was driven out of the 
garden of Eden, and made to enter Gehenna. (Hiram is 
here identified with the " Prince of Tyre," to whom Ezekiel 
is charged with a message ( Vide Ezek. xxviii. 1 ff. ; cf. 
JSeresk. Bab. lxxxvi. 5). 

10. The generation of Yonadab ben Rechab. Because 
he wrote all the words in the Book of Jeremiah, and 
was righteous, and reproved Israel. (The text here is 
extremely puzzling. Possibly Jerem. xxxv. 19 is referred 
to.) 

11. The generation of the bird Milcham. When Eve 
had eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and 
evil, and had given also to her husband, and he had 
eaten thereof with her, she envied the rest of the 
creatures, and induced them all to follow her example 
(so that they too should die). Then she came to the bird 



34*4 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

Milchain, and said to him, Eat of that of which thy 
companions have partaken ; hut he answered, Is it not 
sufficient that you have sinned against God, and 
brought death upon others, but you would entice me 
also to transgress a Divine command, so that I should eat 
and die ; I will not listen to you. Thus he reproved Eve 
and all the creatures. Then a bath-qol immediately went 
forth, and said to Adam and Eve: Ye received a com- 
mand, and obeyed it not, but ye sinned, and now ye come 
to the bird Milcham, to persuade him, too, to sin, and he 
will not hearken to you, because he stands in awe of me ; 
therefore, because I laid no charge upon him, yet he 
regarded my decree, he shall never taste death, neither he 
nor his offspring. 

Thus, when God had formed the Angel of Death, and 
the latter, beholding all the creatures, asked God to grant 
him permission to slay them, God replied : Thou hast 
jurisdiction over all creatures and their offspring, with the 
exception of the generation of the bird Milcham, who must 
never taste death. Then the Angel of Death said : Lord of 
the Universe, let them be set apart from me (for they are 
righteous), so that they may not learn the customs of the 
world, and trespass against thee and taste of sin. Forth- 
with, by God's authority, he built for them a great city, 
and caused them to enter it, and he set a seal upon its gates, 
saying, It has been decreed that my sword shall not rule 
over you, neither the sword of another, and ye shall not 
taste death until the end of all creation. 

In connection with this legend, Dr. Jellinek remarks, in 
the introduction to Beth-Ha-Midrash VI. (p. xi., note 4) — 
Concerning the immortal bird DI"te (Milcham), in Ben Sira 
(Ed. Steinschneider), 27ab, 28b, 29ab, we read in the 
Kappoport MS. of the Midrash Alscha rni» ^n (where 
Driba stands in place of nrtba) — the following: — The 
bird Miltam — why ? Because when Eve had eaten of the 
forbidden fruit, and the bird Miltam, after having been 
offered some by all the creatures, refused to partake 



Death, Burial, and Mourning. 345 

thereof, God said : " I will raise him up for ever and ever 
as an example to mankind ; he and his posterity shall 
in future bear testimony to the merit of Israel. Thus 
he is now in that city which was built for him by the 
Angel of Death, and is fruitful and multiplies like all 
creatures. When he attains to the age of a thousand 
years, he begins to gradually diminish in size until he be- 
comes like a little bird, aud then his strength ' is renewed 
like the eagle,' so that he never wholly dies." The expres- 
sion orte bctf Tin in Ben Sira here finds its justification, 
and does not need to be emended into Drte bo? "J3nt. [With 
reference to the foregoing, Herr Epstein, in his book 
Dmrrn nYOianpn maintains (p. iii. n. 4) that in the MS. to 
which Dr. Jellinek alludes, the name of the bird is written 
Dnba not dnbtt, and he likewise shows by quotations from 
various MSS. of " Derech Erez Sutta," that Jabez is de- 
scribed not as the son, but as the grandson of Rabbi Jehuda 
ha-Nasi, while no mention whatever is made of a servant 
of Rabbi.] 

According to Beresh. Bab. (xix. 5), the use of the 
word EJ1. in Genesis iii. 6 implies that Eve gave of the 
fruit also to the wild and domestic animals, and to the 
birds, and all partook thereof, with the solitary exception 
of a bird named ^n — phoenix. The School of Rabbi 
Jannai taught : This bird survives to a thousand years ; 
and after the lapse of this period a fire breaks forth from 
its nest and burns it up, leaving only a residue equal to 
the size of an egg, which again assumes fresh limbs and 
acquires renewed vigour. Rabbi Judah states (in the 
name of Rabbi Simeon) that the bird lives about a thou- 
sand years, on the expiration of whieh its body contracts, 
its wings fall out, and there remains of it about as much 
as an egg, which becomes resuscitated. (See also Mid- 
Shemuel, ch. xxii., and compare Rashi's note on Job 
xxix. 18.) 

Yet another tradition remains to be recorded with refer- 
ence to this wonderful bird. Shem, the son of Noah, relates 



346 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

(T. B. Sanhed. 1086) that while his father was engaged in 
feeding the inmates of the ark, he came across N3HmiN 
(Aruch na^ttnis) lying quite still in the background. He 
asked the bird : How comes it that thou alone dost not 
stand in need of nourishment ? I observed, replied the bird, 
that thou hadst so many to attend to, that I did not care 
to trouble thee. Thereupon Noah exclaimed : May it be the 
will of God that thou mayst never die ! Delitzsch in his 
commentary on Job (xxix. 18) has incontestably proved 
the identity of this bird with \>in> the fabled phoenix (vide 
Levy, Neuheb. u. Chald. W. B. i. 48a). 

As is well known, the word bin, in Job xxix. 18, is by 
many regarded as an allusion to the Phoenix : — " Then I 
said, I shall die beside my nest, and I shall multiply my 
days as the Phoenix." (Vide Merx, Archiv. II. 104ff.) 

Thus in the LXX. rendering of this passage, some see in 
<rT6\e;£09 (j>oiviico<} a corruption of fyolvit; (cf. Vulg.). The 
Massorah, in loco, draws attention to the peculiar significa- 
tion of bin, and in the Book of Roots, s. v. ^in, Kimchi em- 
phasizes that the Jewish teachers of Nehardea read bin in 
order to differentiate the word from Tin " sand." 

For a list of authorities to be consulted with regard to 
the Greek conception of the Phoenix and the more ancient 
Egyptian form of the myth and its genesis, see Dillmann's 
last edition of Job in the admirable series of the K. E. H. B. 
A popular but learned article in a recent number of the 
Saturday Review (No. 1,967), Vol. LXXVL, pp. 38-40, will 
likewise be found interesting. 

But, to come back to the Angel of Death, with whom we 
set out. 

It seems that notwithstanding his unique capacity for 
inflicting wounds, and thus entailing untold suffering upon 
the human race, his continued existence is essential to the 
equilibrium of the Universe. For according to a parable in 
T. B. Yoma (96J) if the Angel of Death in the form of the 
3?1»7 " l ?S were to be slain, the world would perish. 

Yet he is not immortal. In the Millennium, neither 



Death, Burial, and Mourning. 347 

Satan nor any evil destroyer will exist (Book of Jubilees 
xxiii.). The S"KJ ^. will ultimately succumb (T. B. Succa 
52a; compare a parallel passage in the Bundehesk, ch. xxxi.). 
The day will assuredly come when the Lord, with his sore 
and great and strong sword, will punish leviathan, the 
fleeting serpent and leviathan the winding serpent (Is. 
xxvii. 1) identified by later Rabbinic Writers with Satan 
(cf. Rev. xx. 2). 

And the arch-enemy of the human race is painfully 
conscious of the fate in store for him. When Satan was 
vouchsafed a glimpse of the Messiah, he was filled with 
terror, well knowing that he had beheld him who would 
sooner or later plunge the Angel of Death into destruc- 
tion (Pesifcta Mabbati, ed. Friedmann, Pisha 36 ; Yalk. on 
Is. § 359). 

For has not the Prophet Isaiah predicted (xxv. 8) that 
the Lord of Hosts himself will eventually swallow up death 
for ever (a metaphor, by the way, kindred with that of 
tasting death) ? And has not St. Paul in that stately 
chapter of Corinthians which forms part of the Christian 
burial service, foretold the same blissful consummation ? 
(1 Cor. xv. 54. Cf. Rev. xx. 2, and also the poem 
«H 3 ""^ in the service for the Passover " night of obser- 
vance.") 

A. P. Bender. 
(To be continued.)