The Paradise In The Sea
: Jewish Fairy Tales And Legends
Hiram, king of Tyre, was a foolish old man. He lived so long and grew
to such a venerable age that he absuredly imagined he would never die.
The idea gained strength daily in his mind and thus he mused:
"David, king of the Jews, I knew, and afterward his son, the wise King
Solomon. But wise as he was, Solomon had to appeal to me for
assistance in building his wondrous Temple, and it was only with the
f the skilled workmen I sent to him that he successfully
accomplished the erection of that structure. David, the sweet singer
in Israel, who, as a mere boy slew the giant Goliath, has passed away.
I still live. It must be that I shall never die. Men die. Gods live
for ever. I must be a god, and why not?"
He put that question to the chief of his counselors, who, however, was
much too wise to answer it. Now the counselors of the king had never
yet failed to answer his queries, and so Hiram felt sure he had at
last puzzled them by a question beyond the power of mortal man to
answer. That was another proof, he told himself, that he was different
from other men and kings--that, in short, he was a god.
"I must be, I must be," he muttered to himself, and he repeated this
to himself so regularly that he came to the conclusion it was true.
"It is not I, but the voice of the Spirit of God that is in me that
speaks," he said to himself, and he thought this remark so clever that
he regarded it as still further proof. It is so easy to delude one's
Then he decided to make the great secret known to the people, and the
doddering old man thought if he would do this in an unusual way, his
subjects would have no doubts. He did not make a proclamation
commanding everybody to believe in him as a god; he whispered the
secret first to his chief counselor and instructed him to tell it to
one person daily and to order all who were informed to do likewise. In
this way the news soon spread to the remotest corners of the country,
for if you work out a little sum you will discover that if you take
the figure one and double it thus: two, four, eight, sixteen, and so
on, it will run into millions.
In spite of this, nothing happened. Hiram, now quite idiotic,
commanded the people to worship him. Some obeyed, fearing that if they
refused they would be punished, or even put to death. Others declared
there was no evidence that the king was a god. This came to the
knowledge of Hiram and troubled him sorely.
"What proof do the unbelievers require?" he asked of his counselors.
They hesitated to reply, but presently the vizier, a shrewd old man
with a long beard, said quietly, "I have heard people say a god must
have a heaven from which to hurl lightning and thunderbolts, and a
paradise in which to dwell."
"I shall have a heaven and a paradise," said Hiram, after a few
moments' silence, adding to himself: "If Solomon could build a
marvelous temple by the help of my workmen, surely I can devise a
He spent so much thought over this that it seemed to become easier
each day. Besides, it would be so nice to live in a paradise all to
himself. At first he decided to build a great big palace of gold, with
windows of precious stones. There would be a high tower on which the
throne would be placed so far above the people that they must be
impressed with the fact that he was God.
Then it occurred to him this would not do. A palace, however vast and
beautiful, would only be a building, not a paradise. Day and night he
pondered and worried until his head ached badly. Then one day, while
watching a ship on the sea, an extraordinary idea came into his head.
"I will build a palace which will seem to hang above the water on
nothing!" he said to himself, chuckling. "None but a god could
conceive such a brilliant idea."
Hiram set about his ingenious plan at once. He sent trusted envoys far
and wide for skilled divers. Only those who did not know the language
of the country were selected. Hiram himself gave them their orders and
they worked only at night, so that none should see or know of their
work. Their task was to fasten four huge pillars to the bottom of the
sea. Their work completed, the divers were well paid and sent away.
Next, a different gang of workmen was brought from a strange land.
They constructed a platform on the pillars in the sea. Then a third
lot of artisans began to erect a wonderful edifice on the platform.
They, too, only worked at night, but the building could no longer be
concealed. It was showing itself above the sea. The people were
therefore told, by royal proclamation, in these words:
I, Hiram of Tyre, the King, and of all the People,
Hereby make known to you that it has become my pleasure to
reveal unto you my
which hitherto I have concealed in the clouds. Ye who are worthy
shall behold it
Of all the clever things he had done, Hiram believed the composition
of that proclamation the cleverest.
"Those who do not see, will think themselves unworthy," he said, "and
will tremble in fear of my wrath. They will see a little more each day
and will think themselves growing worthy. And they will believe; they
must, when they see it all. Besides, they will look upward, toward the
clouds, to see the paradise descending. They will never think of
looking below to see it rising."
And so it happened. The people could not help but be impressed when
they saw the amazing structure. It grew daily, apparently of its own
accord, for no workmen were seen; and most wonderful of all, it seemed
to rest on nothing in the air!
This was because the first story was of clearest glass, so clear,
indeed, that the people saw through it and thought they saw nothing.
On this the other stories were erected, and, of course, they appeared
to be suspended in space.
There were seven stories to represent seven heavens. The second, the
one above the glass, was constructed of iron, the third was of lead,
the fourth of shining brass, the fifth of burnished copper, the sixth
of glistening silver, and the last story of all, of pure gold.
The whole building was lavishly studded with precious stones, gems and
jewels of many hues. By day, when the sun shone and was reflected from
the thousands of jewels and the polished metals, the appearance was
dazzling; the people could not help but regard as a heaven that which
they could scarcely look upon without being blinded. In the setting
sun the uppermost story, with its huge golden dome, glowed like an
expanse of fire; and by night, the myriad gems twinkled like
Yet some people would not believe this was a paradise, and so Hiram
had to set his wits to work again.
"Thunder and lightning I must produce," he said, and this part of his
ambition he found not at all difficult.
In the second story he kept huge boulders and round heavy stones. When
these were rolled about the people thought the noise was thunder. By
means of many revolving windows and reflectors, Hiram could flash a
light on the town and delude simple people, who were easily impressed
and frightened, into the belief that they saw lightning.
"When I am seated here above the forces of the storm," said Hiram,
"the people must surely accept me as God and extol me above all mortal
He was foolishly happy on his throne in the clouds, but his counselors
shook their heads. They knew that such folly would meet with its due
punishment. They warned Hiram against remaining in his paradise during
a storm, but he replied, in a rage: "I, the God of the storm, am not
But when the real thunder rolled and the lightning flashed all around
his paradise, Hiram lost his boastful courage. He saw visions.
Trembling in every limb, he crouched on his throne and imagined he saw
angels and demons and fairies dancing round him and jeering at his
pretensions and his wonderful structure.
The storm grew fiercer, the lightning more vivid, the thunder-crashes
louder, and Hiram screamed when there was a tremendous noise of
crashing glass. The first story could not withstand the terrible
buffeting of the waves. It cracked and crumbled. There was no support
left for the six heavens above. They could no longer hang in space.
With a mighty crash, that struck terror into the hearts of the
beholders, the whole structure collapsed in a thousand pieces in the
Marvelous to relate, Hiram was not killed or drowned. It seemed a
miracle that he should be saved, but such was the case; and some
people thought that proved him to be a god more than his unfortunate
paradise. But his life was only spared to end in greater misery and
sorrow. He was dethroned by Nebuchadnezzar and ended his days a
wretched captive. And all the people knew that Hiram, once the great
king of Tyre, the friend of King David and King Solomon, was but a
mortal and a foolish one.