Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 6.djvu/135

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Ⅱ, 62-68.
9
the chapter of the heifer.

Sabbath, and we said, ‘ Become ye apes, despised and spurned[1].’

Thus we made them an example unto those who stood before them, and those who should come after them, and a warning unto those who fear.

And when Moses said to his people, ‘ God bids you slaughter a cow[2],’ they said, ‘ Art thou making a jest of us ?’ Said he, ‘ I seek refuge with God from being one of the unwise.’ They said, ‘ Then pray thy Lord for us to show us what she is to be.’ He answered, ‘ He saith it is a cow, nor old, nor young, of middle age between the two ; so do as ye are bid.’ 65 They said, ‘ Pray now thy Lord to show us what her colour is to be.’ He answered, ‘ He saith it is a dun cow, intensely dun, her colour delighting those who look upon her.’

Again they said, ‘ Pray thy Lord to show us what she is to be ; for cows appear the same to us ; then we, if God will, shall be guided.’ He answered, ‘ He saith, it is a cow, not broken in to plough the earth or irrigate the tilth, a sound one with no blemish on her.’ They said, ‘ Now hast thou brought the truth.’ And they slaughtered her, though they came near leaving it undone.

When too ye slew a soul and disputed thereupon, and God brought forth that which ye had hidden, then we said, ‘ Strike him with part of her.’ Thus


  1. The tradition is that some inhabitants of Elath (Akabah) were transformed into apes for catching fish on the Sabbath in David’s time. Other commentators say that the expression is only figurative.
  2. The legend embodied in this passage and what follows appears to be a distorted account of the heifer ordered by the Mosaic law to be slain in expiation of a murder, the perpetrator of which had not been discovered. Deut. ⅹⅺ. 1-9.