THE LEGEND OF ABRAHAM AND THE FURNACE OF FIRE

Posted by & filed under Abraham, Bible Symbolism, Furnace of fire, Hebrew Legends, Kabbalah, Nimrod, Oral Torah, Satan.

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 Legends and tales from the Oral Tradition of ancient Israel, which are not found in the written Bible but which tradition says were transmitted to Moses orally by God during his forty days on Mt. Sinai, have been preserved in the Talmud and in various other religious writings — including the Zohar, which is a text of Kabbalistic lore and teaching.

According to one of these legends, Abraham (originally named Abram) was born in the kingdom of Nimrod — variously described as a fallen angel, the architect of the Tower of Babel, and the personification of rebellion and pride.

Nimrod was an astrologer, and he foresaw in the stars that a child was about to be born who would overthrow him and put an end to his idolatrous religion in which he had proclaimed himself the chief god. So he ordered the slaughter of all male newborns in his kingdom, and no less than seventy thousand children were murdered.

But the pregnant Emtelai, who was the wife of Terah (one of the king’s counselors), fled from the city and wandered through the desert until she found a cave in which to hide. The next day, she gave birth to a son, Abram. Knowing that to bring him home would mean his death, she tearfully wrapped him in a blanket and departed, saying, “May God be with you.”

When she was gone, God sent the angel Gabriel to the cave, and caused milk to flow through Gabriel’s finger to feed the child.

When Abram was but ten days old, he could walk and speak. He then left the cave, and when he looked up he saw the stars: he believed that they must be gods, so he resolved to worship them. But then the stars went down and disappeared, and he realized they were not gods at all. Then the sun arose, and Abram thought that this must be god: but then the sun set and he realized, “this is no god”. The same thing happened when he watched the moon arise and vanish. Somewhere, he thought, a true God must exist Who set all these other heavenly bodies into motion. Gabriel then appeared to him, and revealed the Truth. Abram prostrated himself, and prayed.

At about this time, Emtelai returned to the cave in misery to bury her son. When she could not find him she wept bitterly, believing that his little body had become prey for lions and wolves. But when she walked out to the edge of the valley, she found Abram. “My son,” she exclaimed, “how you have grown! But twenty days old and you can walk and talk!” Abram explained to her that nothing is beyond the power of the great, powerful, and ever-living God, Who sees all and does all. “My son,” his mother asked in astonishment, “is there a God greater than Nimrod?” Yes, he told her, the God of Heaven and Earth, and He is even the God of the foolish Nimrod. “Now go”, he said, “and bring this message to him.”

She told her story to Terah who brought it to the king. When Nimrod heard the tale, he was seized with fear and asked his counselors what he should do. But when they heard the story, they were too horror-struck to speak. At that moment, Satan appeared in human form and cast himself before the king. When asked to speak he said, “Why be terrified of a small child? Send your army to fetch him, and make him your slave.”

The army was sent, but Gabriel placed a storm of thick, black clouds between Abram and the assailants, and they all fled in fear back to Nimrod, and together with their terrified king they all ran away to Babylon (a name which, like ‘Babel’, means confusion, in the sense of a chaotic mixture and dilution of sacred principles). At God’s command, Abram then went to Babylon on his own, on a mission to preach the Oneness of God.

The king soon sent for him, and he appeared before Nimrod with his father, Terah. “Nimrod,” Abram began, “you contemptible wretch, who denies the true God.” As he continued to speak, the idols in the palace fell on their faces — and so too did Nimrod. At first, Nimrod begged for mercy and said, “Verily, the God of Abram is a great and powerful God, the King of Kings!” But soon his pride and arrogance returned, and he ordered Abram thrown into prison and given no bread or water.

Into this dungeon, however, God again sent Gabriel who provided him with fresh water and food.

After a year’s time, Nimrod ordered his people to come to the prison and see the evidence of his superior power. But when the dungeon was opened, there was Abram still alive! “Food and drink have been bestowed on me by the Lord Who is over all things,” Abram said in front of all the gathered people, “the Lord Who alone does wonders.”

The furious Nimrod then had him thrown back into the dungeon and he ordered his people to spend forty days gathering wood and building a gigantic furnace. When all the wood was set on fire, the flames leapt to the skies and Nimrod ordered Abram to be brought forth. First the royal executioner, and then various princes one after another, were ordered to take hold of Abram and throw him into the furnace. But with each such attempt flames would shoot forth from the furnace and consume whoever laid their hands upon the prisoner.

Then Satan appeared once again. He advised the king to let him build a great catapult, to set it safely out of range of the flames, and from there to fling Abram into the furnace. Abram was bound to the catapult, and Satan said to him secretly, “If you wish to be saved from the fiery furnace, all you have to do is to bow down to Nimrod.” But Abram responded, “May the Eternal One rebuke you, you foul and contemptible blasphemer.” Satan then departed from him. His mother came and begged him to save himself, but all he said was, “Water can quench Nimrod’s fire, but nothing can quench the fire of God.”

Abram was then cast into the furnace, but the logs burst forth into flower and gave forth fruit, and Nimrod and his people saw Abram sitting with the angels within this pleasure garden. “Witchcraft!” exclaimed Nimrod. But all his people in unison interjected, “No, it is the power of the God of Abram, the only living God, and we acknowledge it!”

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