76. CONCERNING LYING WITNESSES
And there was a certain depraved man of the seed of Benjamin, whose name was Benyâs, who used to lead the mule of the King of Israel, and Karmîn used to feed him, together with the mule of King Manasseh. And among the neighbours of Karmîn there were certain men who were envious of him because of [his] pastures and wells, and because of the multitude of his flocks and herds and servants, for the region [where he had settled] was the inheritance of their fathers, and for this reason they wished to drive him away from their country. And they kept watch upon Benyâs, the leader of the king's mule, with evil intent, and they abused Karmîn, and said unto Benyâs, "This Karmîn blasphemeth, and he hath blasphemed the King of Israel, the anointed of God, saying, 'This king is not the son of a free woman, but the son of an old woman servant whom [a certain man] bought for two Ḳôr-measures [of grain] to work at the mill and brick-making.' Do thou take thy case against him to the king and accuse him, for we will be thy witnesses before the king, and we will not let thee be put to shame." And they made a covenant together, and they swore to him that they would bear false witness against Karmîn, by whose tongue such a word had never been uttered, and into whose mind such a thought had never entered.
And Benyâs went to his lord, the King, and told him all this matter. And the King said unto him, "Is there any man who hath heard this with thee?" And Benyâs answered and said unto him, "Yea, there are some who have heard—two of the nobles of Israel who belong to ’Armâtêm." And the King said unto him, "Go now and bring them hither secretly so that we may find
Plate XVIII. The Gadarene Swine rushing down into the sea
out whether they agree with thy words; [and if they do] we will cut off the head of Karmîn." And Benyâs departed and brought Zaryôs and Kârmêlôs, of the tribe of Manasseh, for it had been agreed between them that they would not put him to shame before the King in the matter of their lying testimony. And these two men agreed together and planned when they were on [their] way, saying, "When we have spoken to the King if he shall ask us afterwards separately (so that he may find out the truth of our words), saying, 'Where did you hear these words?' we will each of us answer and say unto him, 'When we were drinking wine with him.' And when he shall say unto us, 'What day [was this]?' we will say, 'Five days after the new moon.' And when he saith unto us, 'What time [of the day]?' we will say unto him, 'At the ninth hour, when he was sitting with us, and we were drinking wine together.' And when he shall ask us, saying, 'What did ye drink out of? and where were ye sitting?' we will say unto him, 'Out of cups of gold, and our seats were in the hall of his house where the cushions for reclining upon were placed.'" And they agreed together on this evil plot [whilst they were] on their way.
And when they arrived in the presence of the King Benyâs brought them forward, and the King questioned them, and they repeated to him all their lying counsel. And he asked them—according as they had surmised on the road—the occasion, and the day, and the hour of their drinking [wine] and their sitting [in the hall], and they told him. Now, God hath commanded that kings, and governors, and all those who occupy a high position shall investigate an accusation, even as God commanded Moses.
And when the King had enquired into all this matter, he called the captain of his host who stood before him, and said unto him, "Go at dawn of day to-morrow and surround the house of Karmîn and let not anyone of his people escape thee, neither man nor woman, and slay [them all] with the sword. And as for Karmîn, cut off his head, and bring hither all his possessions, and his goods, and all his flocks and herds, and his gold and silver."
And those liars rejoiced and returned to their district, and they went into the house of Karmîn and held converse with him with words of peace, and they paid him compliments, and they made jests before his face, evil being in their hearts. And then was fulfilled on them the prophecy of David, who said, "Those who speak words of peace with their neighbour, and [have] evil in their hearts, reward them according to the evil of their works and according to the evil of their thoughts." 1 And they drank themselves drunk in the house of Karmîn, and they slept together with him. And when they had fallen asleep, behold, the Angel of God was sent to Karmîn, and he awoke him and said unto him, "Leave all thy possessions and save thyself, for men have been commanded by Manasseh the King to cut off thy head. Take as much of thy riches as thou canst carry, and flee into another country, for this Manasseh is a slayer of the prophets, and a seeker after the blood of innocent men."
Then Karmîn rose up straightway, and sought out his treasure in gold and took it, and he awoke his wife and his two sons, and he also awoke his chosen servants, and loaded them with possessions of great value, and went forth by night. And he sent off his wife and his sons with two servants to go to Jerusalem, and departed with two of his servants to a remote country—a distance of three months’ journey—and he arrived at Babylon. And he came to Balâ‘ôn, the King of Babylon, and gave him a gift, and related unto him what had happened to him. And Balâ‘ôn loved Karmîn, and gave him a habitation near the house of his merchant, who had departed to a far country for a period of three years.
And those men who had borne lying testimony they killed in bed in Karmîn's house.
And the wife of the merchant loved Karmîn, and she was seduced by him, and became with child; now the behaviour of women is bad. And the husband of the woman had left her when she was with child, and she brought forth and gave the child to a nurse who brought it up. And in the second year she went astray and became with child by Karmîn, for the person of Karmîn was exceeding goodly in Israel. And the woman wished to throw the child whom she had conceived into the river when he was born and to wait for the merchant her husband as if she had not gone astray, and had not done anything [wrong]. Even as Solomon the wise man saith, "There are three things which are difficult to me in my mind, and the fourth of these I cannot comprehend:—The track of the eagle in the heavens, the path of the serpent on the rock, the track of a ship on the sea." Now the fourth of them of which he speaks concerneth the wicked woman, who, having wronged her husband, and washed herself, sitteth down like a woman who hath done nothing, and she sweareth an oath falsely.
And at that time the wife of Balâ‘ôn, the King of Babylon, conceived and brought forth something which was like unto an eagle, a perfect bird but altogether without wings. And she called a handmaiden who was a favourite, and sent the thing away in a wicker-basket and commanded her to cast it into the sea (i.e. river), without letting anyone know about it. And the time for the bringing forth of the wife of the merchant arrived, and she brought forth a man-child, comely in form [and worthy of] compassion. And without suckling it she called to a handmaiden who was a favourite, and put it into the inner part of a box and commanded her to throw him into the sea (i.e. river), without anyone knowing about it; for she was afraid of her husband. And in the same night two women brought forth, [the merchant's wife] and the wife of the King, and at daybreak the two women sent their handmaidens to cast their children into the river.
And by the Will of God these two handmaidens met each other before they had thrown the children into the river, and they talked together. And the handmaiden of the King asked the handmaiden of the merchant, saying, "What is in thy box?" and she showed her the beautiful child. And the King's handmaiden said unto her, "Why hast thou brought him here?" And the merchant's handmaiden said unto her, "Because the wife of my lord hath gone astray with a certain Israelite, and she conceived and brought forth a child, and she hash commanded me to throw him into the river." And the King's handmaiden said unto her, "Why doth she not bring up a child who is so beautiful?" And the merchant's handmaiden said unto her, "Her husband left her with child, and she brought forth a child, and is rearing him; how then can she rear this child who is of strange and alien seed?" And the merchant's handmaiden asked the King's handmaiden, saving, "What hast thou in thy box?" And the King's handmaiden said unto her, "My lady hath brought forth a child that hath not the appearance of a man but of a wingless eagle, and she hath commanded me to throw it into the river. And now, give me this child of thine that I may give it to my mistress, and do thou take this bird, and cast it into the river"; and they did so. And the handmaiden of the King took the child [of Karmîn] to her mistress, and the Queen rejoiced, and it was reported to the King that the Queen had borne a son. And the Queen gave the boy to the nurses, and he grew up in the house of the King, and she called his name "Nâbûkĕdnâṣar" (Nebuchadnezzar), which is, being interpreted, "By the luck of the bird."
And through this it is well known that the King of Babylon is the seed of Shem. And he came and overthrew Jerusalem by the Will of God, and he carried away captive the children of Israel, and he made them to wander in the town of Babylon with the grandchildren of Manasseh. And he was so very rich that he set up a pillar of gold on the plain of Babylon sixty cubits high, and he was very arrogant, and he used to say, "I make the sun to shine in the heavens"; and he worshipped idols. And God abased him so that he might know Him, and He set his portion with the beasts of the field. And when he knew the Name of the Lord after seven years He had compassion upon him, and brought him back in repentance. And the kingdom of Babylon was his, and it belonged to those who were of his seed for ever.