The Midrash of Semhazai and Aza’el

(I) R. Joseph was (once) asked what was the story of Semhazai and Aza’eI, and he replied: When the generation of Enosh arose and practiced idolatry and when the generation of the Flood arose and corrupted their actions, the Holy One-Blessed be He-was grieved that He had created man, as it is said, “And God repented that he created man, and He was grieved at heart.(2) Forthwith arose two angels, whose names were Semhazai and Aza’el, and said before Him: “0 Lord of the universe, did we not say unto Thee when Thou didst create Thy world, ‘Do not create man’?”, as it is said, “What is man that Thou shouldst remember himn?”. The Holy One-Blessed be He-said to them: “Then what shall become of the world?” They said before Him. ”We wilt suffice’ (Thee) instead of it.'(3) He said. ”It is revealed and (well known to me that if peradventure you had lived in that (earthly) world, the evil inclination would have ruled you just as much as it rules over the sons of man, but you would be more stubborn than they.” They said before Him. “Give us Thy sanction and let us descend (and dwell) among the creatures and then Thou shalt see how we shall sanctify Thy name” He said to them. “Descend and dwell ye among them.”(4) Forethwith the Holy One allowed the evil inclination to rule over them, as soon as they descended. When they beheld the daughters of man that they were beautiful they began to corrupt themselves with them, as it is said, “Then the sons of God saw the daughters of man”, they could not restrain their inclination.

(5) Forthwith Semhazai beheld a girl whose name was ‘Esterah; fixing his eyes at her he said: “Listen to my (request).” But she said to him: “I will not listen to thee until thou teachest me the Name by which thou art enabled to ascend to the firmament, as soon as Thou dost mention it.” He taught her the Ineffable Name.

(6) What did she do? She mentioned It and therebv ascended to the firmament. The Holy One said; “Since she has departed from sin, go and set her among the stars.” It is she who shines brightly in the midst of the seven stars of the Pleiades; so that she may always be remembered, forthwith the Holy One fixed her among the Pleiades.

(7) When Semazai and Aza’eI saw this they took to them wives, and begat children. Semhazai begat two children, whose names were Heyya and ‘Aheyya. And Aza’el was appointed chief over all kinds of dyes and over all kinds of women’s ornaments by which they entice men to unclean thoughts of sin.

(8) Forthwith Metatron sent a messenger to Semhazai and said to him: “The Holy One is about to destroy His world, and bring upon it a flood.” Semhazai stood up and raised his voice and wept aloud, for he was sorely troubled about his sons and (his own) iniquity. And he said: “How shall my children live and what shall become of my children. for each one of them eats daily a thousand camels, a thousand horses, a thousand oxen, and all kinds (of animals)?”

(9) One night the sons of Semhazai, Heyya and ‘Aheyya, saw (visions) in dream, and both of them saw dreams. One saw a great stone spread over the earth like a table, the whole of which was written over with lines (of writing). And an angel (was seen by him) descending from the firmament with a knife in his hand and be was erasing and obliterating all the lines, save one line with four words upon it,

(10) The other (son) saw a garden, planted whole with (many) kinds of trees and (many) kinds of precious stones. And an angel (was seen by him) descending from the firmament with an axe in his hand, and he was cutting down all the trees, so that there remained only one tree containing three branches.

(11) Wben they awoke from their sleep they arose in confusion, and, going to their father, they related to him the dreams. He said to them: “‘The Holy One is about to bring a flood upon the world, and to destroy it so that there will remain but one man and his three sons,” They (thereupon) cried in anguish and wept, saying, “What shall become of us and how shall our names be perpetuated?” He said to them: “Do not trouble yourselves, for your names. Heyya and ‘Aheyya, will never cease from the mouths of creatures, because every time that men will be raising (heavy) stones or boats, or anything similar, they will shout and call your names.” With this their tempers cooled down.

(12) What did Semhazai do? He repented and suspended himself between heaven and earth head downwards and feet upwards, because he was not allowed to open his mouth hefore the Holy One-Blessed be He-, and he still hangs between heaven and earth.

(13) Aza’el (however) did not repent. And he is appointed chief over all kinds of dyes which entice man to commit sin and he still continues to corrupt them.

(14) Therefore, when the Israelites used to bring sacrifices on the day of atonement, they cast one lot for the Lord that it might atone for the iniquities of the Israelites, and one lot for Aza’el that he might bear the burden of Israel’s iniquity. This is the Aza’el that is mentioned in the Scripture.

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