Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster , at sacred-texts.com
LXIII. (1) The story of Elchanan. Elchanan, the son of Joseph, was a large export merchant, and owned many vessels. He hailed from the province of the tribe of Dan, and was exceedingly wise and pious. He passed the day in praying, maintaining the poor, and giving a helping hand to orphan boys and girls. By means of his great skill he made a ship containing sixty chambers, of which each one of his servants made one for himself and his goods. In
the centre of the vessel he constructed a tower which enabled him to see all his servants and their chambers. All the rooms were placed far away from his, and his servants could also not easily enter their neighbour's compartment, nor make any designs upon his property.
(2) Elchanan himself was a mighty man of valour, as were also his sons, being altogether four in the tower. The ship was loaded with 10,000 talents’ worth of pepper, 10,000 talents’ worth of frankincense, 10,000 of calamus and cinnamon, 1,000 litres of machik (###), which they call saffron (###), and every other kind of spice, filling the whole vessel from top to bottom. Some of the servants appointed to guard the merchandise were Jews and others Ishmaelites. Besides these, there were, of course, the sailors. He had with him also 10,000 talents of silver to buy beautiful garments in various parts of the world.
(3) He acted as captain himself. His intention was to travel to a large kingdom, but was overtaken by a severe storm, which resulted in his ship drifting on to the sand in the Sea of Havila. (4) There R. Elchanan came across a certain people who spoke Hebrew. 'Who are ye?' said he. 'We are descendants of Dan,' answered they. And they forthwith invited him among them, and did very great honour to him, for R. Elchanan was beautiful and majestic in appearance. He then told them all his trouble and everything that befell him, and asked them many questions how they came to that place. Thereupon they related to him all their adventures. At the time when Jeroboam resigned, he said to the Israelites, 'Go ye and wage war with Rehoboam, the son of David.' And then the elders told him, Among all the tribes of Israel there is not one containing such mighty men of war and men so trained to battle as the tribe of Dan, and that they should therefore go to battle with Rehoboam and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thereupon. he (Jeroboam) said to them, 'Arise, ye sons of Dan, and fight the men of Judah.' But they replied, 'By the life of our father, Dan, we shall never go against our brothers the house of David and against the King of Judah, and
why should we shed innocent blood?' 'If that is so,' said he, 'then depart from this land of Canaan.' For Jeroboam had made two calves of gold, by which he caused Israel to sin, so that the kingdom of the house of David was divided from that time. (5) They then took counsel against the Egyptians to destroy their land and kill its inhabitants. But their chiefs said to them, 'Is it not written in the Torah, "Ye shall no more see them?" How can we therefore go down to Egypt?' They then had designs (counselled) against Edom, Ammon and Moab, but found it stated in the Torah that God had forbidden Israel to inherit their borderland. But God gave them good advice, and they left the land and marched until they reached the brook of Pishon, a journey of seven years from Canaan. Then, journeying upon camels, they came to Rush, i.e., Havila, a land both rich and fertile, abounding in fields, vineyards, gardens and palaces. There they dwelt by the . sea, where there were Ethiopians without number. (6) The news of their advent having reached the ears of the king, they gathered themselves together as one man, and said, 'It is better for us to die all on one day than little by little by the hand of this strange nation.' The Kushite kings, numbering sixty-five, encamped on the one side of the brook of Pishon, facing the others, the town being between the two hosts. The descendants of Dan, consisting of 200,000 foot, took their bows in their hands and crossed the brook, and a battle took place by the water, in which twenty-five Ethiopian kings were slain. Each one of these kings possessed 1,000 horsemen and 80,000 infantry.
(7) Soon after this, the descendants of Dan, while they were in their camp, heard a great shouting and a loud noise of trumpets. Almost immediately they set up a great shouting themselves, for about 300,000 men of the tribes of Naphtali, as well as of Gad and Asher, had come to their assistance on their horses, and said, 'Brethren, ye must be weary now; rest until the morrow, and we shall join you.' Accordingly, on the morrow they slew all the
kings of Kush, and, taking all the spoil, divided it by lot, the silver and gold being as plentiful as stones. The land of Havila measured a distance of a square, one side of which would take four months to travel, each of the four tribes occupying one side. There they dwell now securely. Concerning them it is written, 'How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together.' A king is appointed over them, and they have an abundance of sheep and oxen, silver and gold, horses, camels and asses; and they sow and gather in the harvest. The king and the judges appointed by themselves give battle every day to the kings of Rush and to strange kingdoms.
(8) These are the names of the kingdoms: Zaqlah the first (or the Eastern), Batuaḥ, Qelalah, Arirah, ‘Adirah, Zeridah, Zaryonah, Latusqah (###), Tira‘h, Tiqunah, Qomah, Qalmah, Ahalah, Aholibah, Riphtah, Saqvah, Qadvah (Qadovah), and Horiyah. They converse with each of these peoples in their own language, and, having made a covenant with them, they dwell by the rivers of Kush called 'Zahab Tob,' which is on the border of the land of Havila.
(9) These four tribes having given battle to these strange kings, they (the kings) brought them presents. Concerning this it is written, "Othri, the daughter of Puṣi (###), shall bring them gifts. . . .' They possess vineyards and large fields, and dwell in tents made of hair, and no stranger can enter the land of Havila. Therein also dwells their king, Abiel, the son of Shaphat, and also the captain of the host, Abiḥail, the son of Shaphat, both of them of the tribe of Dan. When the trumpeter sounds the trumpet, the captain of the host comes forth with the armies, consisting of 173 banners, under each one serving 1,500 men of each tribe, and just as they go out, so they return.
(10) Then the second tribe comes forth, each of the four tribes serving three months. Each tribe keeps its own spoil, and they converse with each other in Hebrew, and in the language of Kedar, and they are all of them pious men. I dwelt among them for twelve months.
(11) They inflict the four capital punishments in accordance with the decisions of the Beth Din. The tribe of Moses is also among them, as it is said, 'And all the children of Levi gathered unto him.' They encamp by the brook of Kedron, together with scattered remnants of the exiles. The brook is called Sambatyon (###), which encompasses them with a radius of two months’ walk. They sleep in houses built like towers, nor is any unclean bird or animal found among them, not even flies, or gnats, or vermin, but only their flocks and herds, which breed twice every year. Nor is there any scorpion or serpent. They reap a hundredfold for every measure of corn they sow, and they possess all kinds of fruits, herbs, spelt, leeks, melons, onions and garlic. They are living together as one nation, and possess many wells, from the waters of which all the lands are irrigated. They also possess all kinds of spices, and round about them there fly about all manner of clean birds. The river, the sand and stones continue in a whirl during the six days of the week, but on the Sabbath they rest. On the eve of every Sabbath a flaming fire ascends from one side of the river, so that no one can approach it until the Sabbath has come to an end. No man has ever seen these flames of the river Sambatyon except the descendants of Dan, Asher, Gad and Naphtali. They alone commune with them, and with reference to them it is said, 'To say to those that are bound, Go forth,' etc.
(12) They have an abundance of silver and gold; they sow and reap, and grow the worms that make the crimson colour, and they make unto themselves beautiful garments and robes, and they are more numerous than they were when they left Egypt. Concerning these four tribes it is written, 'Ah! the land of the rustling of wings which is beyond the rivers of Kush.' The river Sambatyon is four cubits wide, as far as a bowshot reaches. The noise it makes is exceedingly loud, like the billows of the sea and like a mighty tempest, and in the night-time the sound is heard at a distance of half a day's journey. If sand from
that river is placed in a flask, it whirls about during the six days of the week, but on the Sabbath it rests.
(13) The four tribes, together with their cattle, go near the river Sambatyon to shear their flock, for the land is plain and smooth, where neither thorns nor herbs grow. When the descendants of Moses see them, they assemble at the side of the brook, and, raising their voices, say, 'O children of Dan, show us a camel, or ass, or dog.' And they exclaim, 'How long is this camel! and see the length of its neck! How short its ear is! It is very ugly!' These men are pious and charitable, besides being well versed in the Torah, Mishna, and Talmud. When they study they use to say, 'We have received this by tradition from Joshua and Moses, our teachers, and from God.' They do not know the other sages and their traditions are written down in the language in which our teacher Moses delivered them to them. The laws of the killing of animals are according to the words of the sages. They never swore by the name of God.
(14) But the children of Dan did so, and the children of Levi said to them, 'Why do ye take the name of God (in vain)? for has He not given thee bread to eat and water to drink? Why do ye therefore do this thing? Know now that your sons and your daughters shall die in their youth on account of your iniquities, but as for us, no son or daughter shall die in the lifetime of their father, but shall live to the ripe age of 120.' These people do not possess any manservants or maidservants, since they are themselves skilled workmen and merchants. They have shutters with which to close their shops, but never do so because there are no thieves. It is usual for a child to go a distance of several days with the cattle, without any fear of wild beasts, evil spirits, demons or injurious beings, since they are pure and still sanctified with the holiness of Moses our teacher, as it is said, 'For they shall eat the fruit of their actions.'
(15) The children of Isaachar are as numerous as the sand of the sea, without number. They dwell on the
mountains of the deep, behind the land of the Medes and Persians, and a distance of four months’ journey from those who dwell by the brook of Pishon. The law does not depart from their mouth, thus fulfilling the command, 'The Torah shall not depart from thy mouth; thou shalt meditate upon it day and night.' They accepted no earthly yoke, but only the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, and do not fight with their fellow-men, but discuss the Talmud and the Torah. They live in peace and tranquillity, with no injurious thought or evil of any kind to tempt them, and dwell on an area of thirteen days’ journey in each direction. Silver and gold, servants, camels, flocks and herds, they have in plenty, but they breed none. The only warlike instruments they use are knives for killing the sheep, oxen and birds. They receive a tribute from the heathen kingdoms, of all produce, a fourth, and of the oxen and sheep a fifth every year. From this tribute they accumulate immense riches. They have judges and they inflict the four capital punishments according to the decisions of the Beth Din. They converse in the Hebrew language and in that of Kedar.
(16) I dwelt among them for a period of two months, and then, taking my departure on board ship, I fell in among the tribe of Zebulun, who dwell on the mountains of Paran, in tents of hair, in the land of Lud and Pul. Entering their land, I found them to be farmers, tilling the ground and reaping the harvest. They possess all kinds of dainties and are men of valour. For four months they go out to plunder, fighting and robbing people of their riches. They possess the Torah, the Talmud and Mishna, and are men of great faith, who observe all the Commandments. They are also good riders, having innumerable servants, horses, sheep and oxen, as well as camels and asses. They dwell in peace and tranquillity, where no man can intrude.
(17) Thence, after six days’ journey, I came to the tribe of Reuben, opposite them, between Paran and Bethel, where they dwell without war. Concerning them it is written,
[paragraph continues] 'And I shall cause the wild beast to cease from the land, and no sword shall pass over their land.' In the midst of the mountains of darkness they possess a fertile and fruitful land, the stones of which are iron, and from the mountains of which brass is hewn. It is a land in which one could eat his bread without any danger, for no man passes among them. They watch the roads and capture spoil without end. They dwell safely in tents of hair, and speak the Hebrew language and another strange one (###).
(18) Thence I came to an extensive land by way of Shin‘ar, through Elam; it was the kingdom of Meḥumat (###) on the border of Madia, a distance of four months’ journey from the city of (Medinat). I saw the river Gozan (###), and a part of the tribes of Ephraim and Menasseh, who were harsh and hard-hearted. They also are good riders, watching the roads, and having pity on no man. All their possessions were plunder. They are men of valour and skilled in war; one of them alone could smite a thousand men. Among themselves a large amount of food could be obtained for two pieces of silver, and grapes could be obtained in the same way. Concerning them it is said, 'Five of you shall pursue 100, and 100 of you 10,000.'
(19) A half of the tribe of Simeon lives together with the tribe of Judah in the land of the Chasdim, near Jerusalem, a distance of four months’ journey. They are countless and innumerable, and their faces are like lions’ faces. They are all of them proficient riders, archers, spearsmen, and swordsmen, and dwell in tents made of hair, in a wilderness the extent of which is a journey of two months each way. They receive tribute from twenty-five kings, all of whom are white, some belonging to the Ishmaelites and others to the descendants of Keturah. They wage war with heathen kingdoms, always seeking battle. They journey the way of Mathol (###), and the way of Babylon, until the city of the madman (###); in all directions they
journey with their cattle from border to border, and nobody ever dares speak to them. Among themselves they speak Hebrew and Greek, and are men of faith, skilled in the Torah, Talmud, Mishna, and Agada, and also spoke the language of Togarma.
(20) I dwelt among the sons of Judah and Simeon for three years, until merchants from the land of the Danites came to buy the spoil of which they had great quantities, and also spices captured from merchants on the way, and which they had acquired for nothing. I travelled with them on board ship until we came to Elam, after a journey of four months. After the lapse of ten years from the day I departed from the Danites I returned. Those heathen whose land I passed through, and among whom the tribes dwell, were some of them worshippers of the earth, while some worshipped fire, and others worshipped a white horse and were cannibals. [End of the words of R. Elchanan the Danite. I have heard that this R. Elchanan was simple and upright, eschewing evil, and fearing God. He came from the land of India. 1]
200:1 Here follows in the MS. the Hebrew translation of Daniel, which is therefore omitted in the English translation; and then the history of Bel and the Dragon, and the 'Song of Three Children,' translated and published by me in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archæology, 1894–95.