Previous Folio / Sanhedrin Directory / Tractate List / Navigate Site
Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin
Rab Judah said in Rab's name: One should never [intentionally] bring himself to the test, since David king of Israel did so, and fell. He said unto Him, 'Sovereign of the Universe! Why do we say [in prayer] "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," but not the God of David?' He replied, 'They were tried by me, but thou wast not.' Then, replied he, 'Sovereign of the Universe, examine and try me' — as it is written, Examine me, O Lord, and try me.2 He answered 'I will test thee, and yet grant thee a special privilege;3 for I did not inform them [of the nature of their trial beforehand], yet, I inform thee that I will try thee in a matter of adultery.' Straightway, And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed etc.4 R. Johanan said: He changed his night couch to a day couch,5 but he forgot the halachah: there is a small organ in man which satisfies him in his hunger but makes him hunger when satisfied.6 And he walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.7 Now Bath Sheba was cleansing her hair behind a screen,8 when Satan came to him, appearing in the shape of a bird. He shot an arrow at him, which broke the screen, thus she stood revealed, and he saw her. Immediately, And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bath Sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her, and she came unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanliness: and she returned unto her house.9 Thus it is written, Thou host proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou host tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.10 He said thus: 'Would that a bridle had fallen into the mouth of mine enemy [i.e., himself], that I had not spoken thus.'11
Raba expounded: What is meant by the verse, To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David. In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?12 David pleaded before the Holy One, blessed be He: 'Sovereign of the Universe! Forgive me that sin, that men may not say, "Your mountain [sc. the king] has been put to flight by a bird."'13
Raba expounded: What is meant by the verse, Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest?14 David pleaded before the Holy One, blessed be He: 'Thou knowest full well that had I wished to suppress my lust, I could have done so, but, thought I, let them [the people] not say, "The servant triumphed against his Master."'15
Raba expounded: What is meant by the verse, For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me?16 Bath Sheba, the daughter of Eliam, was predestined for David from the six days of Creation, but that she came to him with sorrow.17 And the school of R. Ishmael taught likewise: She was worthy [i.e., predestined] for David from the six days of Creation, but that he enjoyed her before she was ripe.18
Raba expounded: What is meant by the verse, But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and 'gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not?19 David exclaimed before the Holy One, blessed be He, 'Sovereign of the Universe! Thou knowest full well, that had they torn my flesh, my blood would not have flown.20 Moreover, when they are engaged in studying the four deaths inflicted by Beth din they interrupt their studies and taunt me [saying], "David, what is the death penalty of him who seduces a
married woman?" I reply to them, "He who commits adultery with a married woman is executed by strangulation, yet has he a portion in the world to come. But he who publicly puts his neighbour to shame has no portion in the world to come."'
Rab Judah said in Rab's name: Even during David's illness he fulfilled the conjugal rights21 [of his eighteen wives], as it is written, I am weary with my groaning: all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.22 Rab Judah also said in Rab's name: David wished to worship idols, as it is written, And it came to pass, that when David was come to the head, where he worshipped God.23 Now rosh ['head'] can only refer to idols, as it is written, This image's head was of fine gold.24 [But] Behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head.25 He demonstrated with David, 'Shall people say, A king like thee has worshipped idols!' He replied, 'And shall a king like myself be slain by his son! Let me worship idols rather than that the Divine Name be publicly profaned!'26 He retorted, 'Why then didst thou marry a beautiful woman [captured in battle]?'27 He replied, 'The Merciful One permitted a beautiful woman. He rejoined, 'Dost thou not interpret the proximity of verses? For in proximity thereto28 is written, If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son,29 [this teaches:] Whoever marries a beautiful woman [taken in battle] will have a stubborn and rebellious son.'
R. Dosetai of Beri30 expounded: Unto whom may David be likened? Unto a heathen merchant.31 David said before the Holy One, blessed be He, 'Sovereign of the Universe! [Who can understand his errors?'32 He replied, 'They are forgiven thee.' 'Cleanse thou me from secret faults,' [he pursued]. 'I grant it thee.' 'Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins!' — 'Tis granted.' 'Let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright: so that scholars may not discuss me.'33 'Granted.' 'And I shall be innocent from the great transgression: so my sins may not be recorded.' He replied, 'That is impossible. If the [single] yod which I removed from Sarai34 continuously cried out [in protest] for many years until Joshua came and I added it to his name, as it is written, And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua:35 how much more so a complete section!'
And I shall be innocent from great transgression. He pleaded before Him, 'Sovereign of the Universe! Pardon me that sin completely [as though it had never been committed].' He replied, 'It is already ordained that thy son Solomon should say in his wisdom, Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.'36 He lamented, 'Must I37 suffer so much!' He replied, 'Accept thy chastisement,' and he accepted it.
Rab Judah said in Rab's name: Six months was David smitten with leprosy, the Shechinah deserted him, and the Sanhedrin held aloof from him. 'He was smitten with leprosy' — as it is written, Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.38 'The Shechinah deserted him' — as it is written, Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation,' and uphold me with thy free spirit.39 'And the Sanhedrin kept aloof from him' — as it is written, Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies.40 How do we know that it was for six months? — Because it is written, And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years:
Sanhedrin 107bSeven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem;1 whilst [elsewhere] it is written, In Hebron reigned he over Judah seven years, and six months.2 Thus, these six months are not counted [in the first passage quoted], proving that he was smitten with leprosy.3 He prayed to Him, 'Sovereign of the Universe! Forgive me that sin!' 'It is forgiven thee.' '[Then] shew me a token for good,' that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed; because thou, Lord, hast helped me, and comforted me.'4 He replied, 'In thy lifetime I will not make it known [that I have forgiven thee] but in the lifetime of thy son Solomon.' [Thus:] When Solomon built the Temple, he wished to take the ark into the Holy of Holies, but the gates [thereof] cleaved to each other [and would not open]. He uttered twenty-four psalms,5 but was not answered. He then further supplicated, Lift up your head, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. And it is further said, Lift up your heads, O ye gates, even lift them up, ye everlasting doors.6 Still he was not answered. But on praying, O Lord God, turn not away the face of thine anointed: remember the mercies of David thy servant,7 he was immediately answered. In that hour the faces of David's enemies turned [black] as the bottom of a pot [in their discomfiture], and all Israel knew that the Holy One, blessed be He, had forgiven him that sin.
GEHAZI,8 as it is written, And Elisha came to Damascus:9 whither did he go? — R. Johanan said: He went to bring Gehazi back to repentance, but he would not repent. 'Repent thee,' he urged. He replied, 'I have thus learnt from thee: He who sins and causes the multitude to sin is not afforded the means of repentance.' What had he done? — Some say: He hung a loadstone above Jeroboam's sin [i.e., the Golden Calf], and thus suspended it between heaven and earth [by its magnetism]. Others maintain: He engraved the Divine Name in its [sc. the calf's] mouth, whereupon it [continually] proclaimed, 'I [am the Lord thy God],' and 'Thou shalt have no [other] gods before me.'10 Others say: He drove the Rabbis away from him [sc. Elisha], as it is written. And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us;11 proving that till then it was not too narrow.12
Our Rabbis taught: Let the left hand repulse but the right hand always invite back: not as Elisha, who thrust Gehazi away with both hands,13 as it is written, And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound [two talents of silver in two bags…] And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither. And he said unto him, Went not my heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep and oxen, and menservants and maidservants?14 But had he taken so much? He had only taken silver and garments! — R. Isaac said: Just then Elisha was sitting and lecturing on the eight [unclean] reptiles.15 Now Naaman, the chief captain of the king of Syria, was a leper. A maiden, who had been captured from the land of Israel, said to him, 'If thou wilt go to Elisha, he will heal thee.' When he came there he said to him, 'Go and dip thyself in the Jordan.' 'Thou dost but ridicule me!' he exclaimed. But his companions urged him, 'What does it matter to thee? Go and test it.' So he went, dipped himself in the Jordan and was healed. He returned and offered him all he had, but he [Elisha] refused to accept it. Thereupon Gehazi left Elisha's presence, went and took whatever he did, and put it away. When he returned, Elisha saw a leprous
eruption on his head. 'Thou wicked man,' he cried, 'the time has come for thee to receive thy reward [for studying the laws] of the eight reptiles!'16 [So] 'The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever.' And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.17
And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate.18 R. Johanan said: They were Gehazi and his three sons. It was taught, R. Simeon b. Eleazar said: Human nature,19 a child and a woman — the left hand should repulse them, but the right hand bring them back.20
Our Rabbis taught: Elisha was ill on three occasions: once when he incited the bears against the children, once when he repulsed Gehazi with both hands, and the third [was the illness] of which he died; as it is written, Now Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness where of he died.21 Until Abraham there was no old age:22 whoever saw Abraham said, 'This is Isaac;' and whoever saw Isaac said, 'This is Abraham.' Therefore Abraham prayed that there should be old age, as it is written, And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age.23 Until Jacob there was no illness,24 so he prayed and illness came into existence, as it is written, And one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick.25 Until Elisha no sick man ever recovered, but Elisha came and prayed, and he recovered, as it is written, Now Elisha was fallen sick of sickness whereof he died.26
MISHNAH. THE GENERATION OF THE FLOOD HAS NO PORTION IN THE FUTURE WORLD, NOR WILL THEY STAND AT THE [LAST] JUDGMENT, AS IT IS WRITTEN, [AND THE LORD SAID,] MY SPIRIT WILL NOT ALWAYS ENTER INTO JUDGMENT WITH MAN:27 THERE WILL BE NEITHER JUDGMENT NOR [MY] SPIRIT FOR THEM.28 THE GENERATION OF THE DISPERSION HAVE NO PORTION IN THE FUTURE WORLD, AS IT IS WRITTEN, SO THE LORD SCATTERED THEM ABROAD FROM THENCE UPON THE FACE OF ALL THE EARTH:29 'SO THE LORD SCATTERED THEM ABROAD', REFERS TO THIS WORLD, 'AND FROM THENCE DID THE LORD SCATTER THEM ABROAD',30 TO THE WORLD TO COME. THE MEN OF SODOM HAVE NO PORTION IN THE FUTURE WORLD, AS IT IS WRITTEN, BUT THE MEN OF SODOM WERE WICKED AND SINNERS BEFORE THE LORD EXCEEDINGLY:31 'WICKED IN THIS WORLD, AND 'SINNERS' IN THE WORLD TO COME;32 YET WILL THEY STAND AT JUDGMENT. R. NEHEMIAH SAID: NEITHER [THE GENERATION OF THE FLOOD NOR THE MEN OF SODOM] WILL STAND AT JUDGMENT, AS IT IS WRITTEN, THEREFORE
- To Next Folio -