The Jewish Fairy Book (Gerald Friedlander)/The Magic Sword of Kenaz

The Jewish Fairy Book by Gerald Friedlander
XXIII. The Magic Sword of Kenaz (from the Biblical Antiquities of Philo)



AFTER the death of Joshua, the son of Nun, the children of Israel had peace in their land for some time. Their leader and judge was Kenaz, the son of Caleb. He was a very brave man even as his father before him. Joshua and Caleb were two of the twelve spies sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan. They alone gave a truthful report, while the other ten spies frightened the people by telling them that they would never be able to conquer the Holy Land. They told the people of all they had seen, especially about the cities with walls up to the sky. They also spoke of the giants who would think that the Israelites were but tiny grasshoppers. Joshua and Caleb told their brethren not to listen to this false report, for the Canaanites were faint-hearted. As a reward for being truthful Joshua and Caleb were the only two of the spies who lived to enter the promised land of Canaan.

After the death of Moses, Joshua in his turn also sent two men to spy out Jericho before he attempted to capture it. The two spies were Kenaz and his brother. When Joshua died the people chose Kenaz as their judge and ruler. The peace of the land did not last long. The Amorites, a fierce tribe of Canaan, came to attack the Israelites. Kenaz armed his people to fight against the foe. He gave an Army order that his men were to begin the attack on the morrow. He noticed, however, that a score of his men began to grumble, saying: "Lo! to-morrow when we go forth to battle our leader Kenaz will stay at home and enjoy himself. Is it fair that he should send us to fight the mighty Amorites who will kill us to a man?"

The words pained Kenaz very much. He made up his mind to teach them a lesson which they would never forget. He sent for his chief captain to whom he gave a new order, saying: "Let three hundred of my servants and as many horses be chosen to go with me this night on a secret expedition. Let only such men be taken who really desire to serve under me for the love of adventure. Let them meet me at sunset outside my tent. Moreover, let no man of the people know of this matter. Only when I am ready to start will I tell thee. Therefore go now and prepare my men that they be ready in time."

"Thy order, Kenaz, shall be obeyed," said the captain in retiring.

He then sent spies to see what the Amorites were doing. The spies went and saw the enemy moving among the hills so as to come and fight against Israel. The spies returned and told him all that they had seen. At sunset Kenaz left his tent and went away at the head of his three hundred horsemen. In his hand he held his magic sword. All who saw it trembled like a leaf when moved by the wind. At his side he carried a trumpet. When he was about a mile from the camp of the Amorites, he turned round to his followers and said to them: "Abide ye here and I will go alone and view the camp of the enemy. As soon as I blow with my trumpet ye shall come to help me, but if I do not sound the alarm wait ye here for me."

Away he went. It was almost night and he turned his heart and thoughts to God, praying: "O Lord! God of our fathers! I beseech Thee, do a miracle now. Let me, Thy servant, be chosen to defeat the enemy. With Thy help one man can defeat a million. Then will I be able to teach Israel and all men that the Lord delivereth neither by the number of men nor by the strength of horsemen, but by Thy power. Let it come to pass when I draw my sword that it shall glitter and send forth sparks in the eyes of the Amorites who refuse to worship Thee as the only true God. Let it also be a sign unto me that Thy spirit is on me, so that when the Amorites see me they will say 'It is Kenaz.' Be with me, Lord, and save Thy people."

At last he reached the camp of the enemy and he heard them saying to one another: "Let us arise this very night and attack the Israelites unawares. Our gods will surely deliver them into our hands." Then Kenaz felt the spirit of God coming upon him and he drew his sword out of its scabbard. When the light of it shone upon the Amorites like lightning and sparks, the terrified foes cried out: "Is not this the magic sword of Kenaz which hath slain so many of the Canaanites? Now unless we arise to kill him he will slay us. Let every one gird on his sword and begin the battle. See, he is alone."

Kenaz rejoiced when he heard these words, for he knew now that God was with him. The spirit of the Lord was like armor around his body. Without fear he went into the camp of the enemy and began to smite them. As soon as they saw his sword they trembled and fell on their faces to the ground. To help him God sent two invisible angels who went before him. One, named Gethel, smote the Amorites with blindness so that they began to kill one another, thinking that they were smiting their enemies. The other angel Zernel bare up the arms of Kenaz, for his strength was beginning to fail him. He smote forty-five thousand men and they themselves smote about the same number among themselves. When he saw that he had slain so many he wished to end the battle. He tried to loosen his hand from his wonderful sword but he could not, for its handle clave to his palm. His right hand had taken unto it the strength of the sword.

The few Amorites that had not been killed fled into the mountains. Now Kenaz wished to find out how he might loose his hand from his sword. He looked about him and saw one of the enemy running away. He pursued and caught him. He said to him: "I know that the Amorites are very cunning. Now I will let thee go and spare thy life if thou wilt show me how I may loose my hand from this sword."

"That indeed I can do. Go and take a man of the Hebrews and kill him. While his blood is yet warm hold thine hand with the sword beneath it and receive his blood on thine hand; so shall it be loosed."

"As the Lord liveth, if thou hadst said, 'Take a man of the Amorites,' I would have done so and saved thee alive. Since, however, thou hast said, Take a man of the Hebrews, that thou mightest show thine hatred, thy mouth shall be thy judge. As thou hast said, so will I do unto thee."

When he had thus spoken he slew the Amorite, and while his blood was yet warm he held his hand holding the sword beneath and received it thereon. The next moment it was loosed. Kenaz said to himself: "Surely the blood of one man is as good as that of another. What the blood of the Hebrew was supposed to do has now been done by the blood of the Amorite."

The warrior now sheathed his magic sword and returned to his men. On the way he saw a stream. Quickly putting off his garments he dived into the water and washed his weary body. The cool stream refreshed him and he came out feeling quite strong and well. He dressed and hurried along to find his troops.

Now when Kenaz had gone down alone to fight the Amorites an angel had cast upon his three hundred horsemen a heavy sleep. They slept soundly and knew not anything of all that Kenaz had done. Finding them on his return fast asleep, he put his trumpet to his lips and blew a loud blast. In a second the horsemen awoke. They stared at him with wondering eyes for they were mightily surprised to see the first streaks of dawn. "What of the night?" they asked one another.

"Tell us, Kenaz, what happened during the past night?" they cried.

"Come ye with me and see with your own eyes what God has done for us through my hand."

He led on and they followed him. When they came to the camp of the Amorites, lo! the ground was covered with thousands of dead bodies. The horsemen of Kenaz were greatly astonished at what they saw and looked every man on his neighbor. Their leader saw their surprise and asked them:

"Why do ye marvel? Are then the ways of God as the ways of men? With man a large number is a matter of importance, but with God numbers do not count. If God willed to give dctory unto Israel through me His servant, wherefore marvel ye? Now arise and let us go home to our brethren."

When all Israel heard of the mighty victory gained during the night, all the people came out to meet Kenaz and his horsemen. When they saw him they said: "Blessed be the Lord who hath made thee ruler over His people and hath shown that He can save by the hands of the few and defeat the many."

Kenaz said unto them: "Ask now your brethren here with me and let them tell you how greatly they helped to win the victory."

Then his horsemen cried aloud: "As the Lord liveth, we fought not, neither knew we anything of what Kenaz did, for we all fell asleep and we did not awake till we heard his trumpet blast at dawn this day. He then led us to the camp of the Amorites. We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw a wonderful sight. We seemed to be dreaming and we rubbed our eyes to make sure that we were really awake."

"What did ye see?" asked the people.

"We saw the ground covered with tens of thousands of slain Amorites."

When the people heard this wonderful tale they began to marvel how it all happened. At last they said: "Now know we indeed that when the mighty God wisheth to give victory He hath no need of a multitude but only of holiness and trust in Him. Alas! it was very wrong of some of us to have grumbled yesterday, speaking evil against Kenaz, saying that on the day of battle he would stay at home whilst he sent the people to be slain in battle. We have stayed at home whilst he alone risked his life last night in going to battle. Now are we ashamed of all those who spoke slander. Let them be punished according to the law."

Kenaz hearkened unto them and did unto the men who had spoken evil words against him even as the people had demanded. He ruled over Israel fifty and four years and there was a mighty fear upon all his enemies all his days.

Biblical Antiquities of Philo, xxvii.    

the end