The Wisdom of the Children of the East

by tillerofthesoil

ImageAnd Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bore him Zimran and Jokshan and Medan and Midian and Ishbak and Shuah. And Jokshan begot Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were the Ashurim and the Letushim and the Leummim. And the sons of Midian were Ephah and Epher and Enoch and Abida and Eldaah. All these were were the sons of Keturah. And Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. And to the sons of Abraham’s concubines Abraham gave gifts while he was still alive and sent them away from Isaac his son eastward, to the land of the East (Genesis 25:1–6).

“Rabbi Abba said, ‘One day I happened upon a certain town formerly inhabited by children of the East, and they told me some of the wisdom they knew from ancient days. They had found their books of wisdom, and they brought me one.… I found in it all the ritual of star-worship, requisites, and how to focus the will upon them, drawing them down.… I said to them, ‘My children, this is close to words of Torah, but you should shun these books, so that your hearts will not stray after these rites, toward all those sides mentioned here; lest—Heaven forbid—you stray from the rite of the blessed Holy One! For all these books deceive human beings, since the children of the East were wise—having inherited a legacy of wisdom from Abraham, who bestowed it upon the sons of the concubines, as is written: To the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, while he was still alive, and he sent them away from his son Isaac eastward, to the land of the East (Genesis 25:6). Afterward they were drawn by that wisdom in various directions” (Zohar 1:99b).

“What is the meaning of gifts? Rabbi Yirmeyah son of Abba said, ‘This teaches that Abraham transmitted to them a name of defilement [by which to conjure demons and sorcery]’” (BT Sanhedrin 91a).

Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of the children of the East (1 Kings 5:10).