The Jewish Fairy Book (Gerald Friedlander)/David and the Insects

The Jewish Fairy Book by Gerald Friedlander
XIX. David and the Insects (from the Alphabet of Ben Sira)



IT happened one day that David the son of Jesse was sitting in the lovely garden of his father's house in Bethlehem, not far from Jerusalem. He was resting after a long day's hard work. He loved to gaze at the beautiful flowers painted with the golden tints of the setting sun. Their sweet perfume also made his heart glad and he felt so happy to be alive in such a glorious world. Hark! The pretty birds were singing so grandly. They were surely praising God. He also would join in their song of praise, thanking the great Creator for having made this perfect world with its countless beautiful things.

His happy thoughts were suddenly disturbed by seeing a large wasp attacking a spider. The latter had woven its web between two twigs of a rose-bush near by. At that moment one of Jesse's servants who was of ofttimes mad came along with a large stick in his hand. As soon as he saw the wasp stinging the unfortunate spider he drove them away by striking at them with his stick. He then went his way, knocking off the heads of the little daisies and buttercups along his path.

"Well, I never," cried David in surprise, "thought that the world was as funny as I now see it is, I was delighted but a minute or two before with all the wonderful and beautiful things made by God. Now I find that in this lovely world there are also such useless creatures as I have just seen. What earthly use is there in a madman who knows not what he is doing, ever bent on destroying whatever he sees? O Lord of the Universe! Tell me, I beseech Thee, why hast thou created wasps and spiders? The wasp eats honey and destroys the spiders. Of what use is it? It is not good for anything except to breed maggots. As for the spider, it spins all the year round and never garbs itself with its fine web it has woven."

The Holy One, blessed be He, answered saying:

"O David! Why dost thou despise the little creatures which I have made for the welfare of the world. An occasion will surely arise when thou wilt have great need of their wonderful help. Then indeed wilt thou know why they have been created by Me. Everything in My universe has its great purpose; even the madman whom thou mockest has also his part to play. Despise naught in the world. I love all things that are the work of My hand. I hate none of the things which I have made. I spare all things because they are Mine. To everything there is a time and a place. All My creatures praise Me."

David heard no more, for the Divine voice grew silent. There was a hush. The sun had set and the golden tints vanished. The cool wind of the twilight reminded David that it was time to get back to his father's flock and to secure the sheep for the night.

Years passed by. David was no longer the shepherd of Jesse's flock. He was now the champion of Israel. His wonderful victory over the giant Goliath made him the hero and favorite of the people. He was now the King's son-in-law, for he had married the daughter of King Saul. The princess was his reward for slaying the mighty giant. Unfortunately David's popularity brought him the envy of King Saul. At last the King sought to kill poor David. To save his life he was forced to escape and hide in the mountains. Saul and his men followed in pursuit. David was finally forced to take refuge in a small cave. "Alas!" he cried, "my enemy will now surely find me and slay me. Help me, God! save my life."

The Holy One, blessed be He, heard his prayer and sent a spider to weave its web across the mouth of the cave. Later when Saul and his followers came along the latter saw the spider's web. They pointed it out to the King, who said: "Truly no man has entered this cave, for had he done so he would have rent the web. Let us not waste our precious time here, but rather let us hurry along the road where we may overtake our enemy."

When they had departed David came forth from the cave. He saw the little spider hanging to part of its broken web. He took it in his hand very gently and caressed it, saying to it: "Blessed is thy Creator and thou also art blessed." He then praised the Heavenly Father, exclaiming: "Lord of the Universe! Who can do according to Thy works and according to Thy mighty deeds? Verily all Thy works and deeds are wonderful."

David then continued his flight and went on his way until he came to the land of the Philistines. He thought that he would be quite safe there. At all events, Saul would leave him alone. Now the king of the Philistines, Achish by name, was a good and pious man. As soon as David's presence in his land was discovered, he ordered his servants to bring the Hebrew hero before him. He greeted him kindly and asked him why he had run the risk of venturing into the territory of the Philistines.

"I ventured to come here for I am not safe in the land of Israel."

"Thou art mad. Thou hast saved Israel. Had it not been for thee all thy people with King Saul would now be our slaves. Dost thou tell us that thy life is not safe in thine own land?"

"O lord King! It is even as I have spoken. I am persecuted by King Saul. He seeks my life and I am safer here than in the Holy Land."

"Why does Saul persecute thee?"

"Because I slew Goliath."

It happened that the brothers of Goliath were the body-guard of King Achish. They told the king that David was worthy of death for having slain their brother. Achish asked them:

"Did he not kill Goliath in a fair combat?"

"Have a care, your Majesty! David is entitled then to be the ruler of all the Philistines. Did not Goliath boast that if he slew the Hebrew champion the children of Israel were to be the slaves of the Philistines, and vice versa?"

David now saw that he was in a very dangerous position. It was almost certain that the brothers of Goliath would kill him if he remained in their land. How could he escape? All of a sudden the idea flashed through his mind that he might escape death if he pretended to be a madman. They might pity him and spare his life. He sat down on the steps of the palace and began to scribble in the dust. He also entirely changed his behavior. This strange conduct puzzled the Philistines.

Now King Achish happened to have a most beautiful daughter who was unfortunately mad. When he saw David's foolish pranks he said to his body-guard: "Why do ye mock me? Is it because my dear daughter is mad that ye think I like to see idiots? Is it for this reason that ye have brought before me this raving madman? Do I then lack lunatics in my kingdom? Send him back to his friend, King Saul, I have no need of such a hero."

The body-guard told David to go away. He went away with a merry heart. He thanked God that he had been fortunate enough to escape from the power of the brothers of Goliath. "Now I know," cried he, "that even a madman has a useful part to play in this most wonderful world."

"When he came back to the Holy Land, King Saul gave him no rest. He was forced to live the wretched life of a fugitive. On one occasion God delivered his enemy into his hand. He chanced to enter a large cave where he found King Saul and his attendants asleep. At the entrance sat the giant Abner also fast asleep. David and his followers had to be very careful how they entered. Fortunately the legs of Abner were drawn up. David's followers urged him to kill his enemy, now that he had the chance. This he refused to do. "I will return good for evil," cried he. To prove to the King that his life had been spared, David cut off a piece of the King's robe and took hold of his cruse of water. David's men went out and he followed. They had all left the cave except David, who found himself caught beneath Abner's huge legs. The giant had just stretched himself as David wished to get out of the cave. "Dear me!" said David to himself, "Abner's legs are like two massive pillars and I am now caught between them as in a trap. O Lord!

save me and answer me. My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"

The Lord heard his cry. At that moment the Holy One, blessed be He, worked a miracle by sending there and then a wasp to sting Abner. The pain caused the giant in his sleep to pull up his legs sharply. Thus David was released. He skipped over the feet of Abner and escaped. At once he praised God for His mercy in creating wasps. Never again did he have any doubt of God's wisdom in creating insects, which at first had seemed to him to be useless and even harmful. Never should we despise anything which seemed worthy to be created by the Holy One, blessed be He.

Alphabet of Ben Sira, pp. 24f.