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IN the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the one God, we begin to transcribe the story of Aphikia wife of Jesus the son of Sirach, vizier of King Solomon, the son of David, King of the children of Israel.
It is said: Solomon the wise heard about Aphikia wife of Jesus the son of Sirach, his treasurer and vizier, that there was not among the women of the children of Israel nor in all Jerusalem one like her, so perfect in body and wise in mind. So he wished to see her and talk with her that he might know the utmost of her wisdom. So he sent to her the eunuch his chancellor, saying to her, “I long to meet with thee and talk with thee.” When the eunuch went to her and told her the saying of the King, her heart was pained and she sobbed, and said to the Chief, “Say to my lord the King, ‘Thy wisdom has filled the whole world, and how has it given place to this idea, that it should come into thy heart, thou whose teaching turneth the fool into a wise man. Yet if it be thy will, I will acquiesce in this unworthy idea; but let it not be carried out while my husband is in this city, lest there be any scandal.’ ” When the eunuch related this saying in the ears of the King, he wondered the more; and begged earnestly to meet with her. He talked with Jesus her husband, saying, “O my son, we have urgent business with the King of Mosul, and I do not see a man suitable to meet with him like thyself.” And Jesus said, “May my lord the King live! according to what he says so be it.” And he wrote the letters for him, and made him ride with honour like the son of kings. He sent with him troops and p. 60 gifts, and he took his journey. Then King Solomon commanded the eunuch, saying to him, “Go to Aphikia wife of Jesus the son of Sirach, and say to her, ‘Be ready for my Sovereign’s reception in thy dwelling.’ ” The eunuch went to her with the saying of the King. And Aphikia said to the Chief, “Tell my lord the King, saying, ‘Is a humble handmaid worthy of this great honour that her Sovereign should walk and come to her? I beg him not to taste any food until he comes and eats in the abode of his servant.’ ” And the eunuch went away from her to the King and told him of this saying. But Aphikia, when the eunuch had gone, called her cook and said to him, “Ask for all thou requirest, fowls, fish and mutton. Cook me from them forty kinds with one taste and let them be different and various in kind.” When the time came, she spread for the King in the chamber of her husband Jesus the son of Sirach, according to the honour of the king. The evening had come, even the end of a part of the night; King Solomon came to her abode, and people went before him with lanterns, and they brought him in to the chamber in which they had spread for him. He was amazed at what he saw. Then Aphikia came up, she and her maidens, and they bowed themselves down to the earth before the King, and they sat behind the door of the chamber in which it had been spread for the King. Then she commanded that the table should be brought up, and upon it were all kinds of bread. Then she commanded that they should present the kinds on the top. The King ate with gusto on account of the purity of the meats of which he was eating, and taking account. He remained contemplating the kinds and wondered at their variety from one another in resemblance. When he had tasted these kinds which were put there, he found that they had all one taste. He ate, and was satisfied, and raised his hand. Then they brought forward many kinds more, and put them before him. He merely tasted them without eating of them. He knew certainly that this was a parable of wisdom. Then he said, “Thy favours are acceptable, O God of Israel! I would know, O Aphikia! the meaning of what thou commandest me by thy foods.” And Aphikia said, p. 61 “O my lord the King! thy wisdom is sufficient for thee and for the whole world. Of what worth is the light of a candle placed before the sun? And what is the measure of thy handmaid that she should speak before the lord the King? The soul from God moves in her body. To-day she hides her corruption and her fetidness, and to-morrow she will be thrown into a grave beyond the place of the fields in which she appears, and she will be a naked soul, with a soul that never dies.” Then said Solomon, “Blessed be the day when they gave thee birth into the world since thou hast filled it with wisdom.” Then he arose, wondering at what he had seen and heard from this chaste woman. When he was outside the door of the room, behold, a ruby got detached from his crown between the lintels of the door, without any one seeing it till the return of Jesus from the journey. He saw it lying, and he took it and examined it in his hand and he recognized it. He knew for certain that the King had entered into his chamber, and he was grieved in his heart and did not speak, nor did he return to his wife another time in conjugal intercourse till the end of two years, nor inquire of her, that she might appease him. She also did not wish to say to him, “Why art thou estranged from me?” saying in her heart that her husband must not say in his heart, “This one is longing for reunion.” And after two years her mother gazed in her face, and saw it, and behold, it was altered and changed. She looked at her limbs, and saw in them great weakness. And she said, “O my beloved daughter, what gives thee pain? for thou art very weak.” She took her by the hand, and went with her to a quiet place in the house, and told her all that had happened, and that she was grieved in her heart on account of her husband more than [on account of] the weakness that had come on her body. Her mother arose at once and went to Solomon, and met with him in a palace alone in a retired spot, for she was in much honour with him. She said, “O my lord the King, live for ever! I had a pleasant vineyard, where I could enjoy life, by God! in the first place, and be comforted by it; I gave it over to a vine-dresser to cultivate it. He waited to give me fruit for a time, then also to himself. p. 62 I trusted in regard to my vineyard to this vine-dresser that he should not neglect to improve my vineyard. I did not visit it for two years. I walked to-day till I reached it, and I found it waste, going to ruin. I implore thee, O my lord the King, to judge between me and this vine-dresser, for he has spoiled a noble vineyard.”
The King said to her, “What has happened to thee about my neglect of thy vineyard until this day?” for he knew the object of her speaking and the meaning of her wisdom. And he commanded them to call Jesus up to his presence, and made him sit by his side with his mother-in-law. And he said to her, “All that thou hast said, repeat it to us once again according to what thou didst tell me,” and she was silent. Then Solomon said, “What sayest thou?” And he said, “All that she said is true, except that I did not weary of doing my best for the cultivation of this vineyard until the day that my lord the King sent me to Damascus. But on my return, O King, to my vineyard, as I went up to the interior of the vineyard looking [about], behold, there was a trace of the steps of a great lion within the threshold. And l feared, and turned back, lest the lion should destroy me.”
Then King Solomon said to him, “Listen to me, that I may speak unto thee, By the truth of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of Moses and Aaron, the great and high God who has appeared to us, He who hears us when we swear by Him, because that lion did not aim at doing anything beyond conversation in speech suitable to wisdom, a gain to all souls who should hear it, now, O my son! rise with joy and a pure heart; enter into thy vineyard and cultivate it in honour, for its honour is great before the Lord of Hosts.” Then Jesus rose at once, and his mother-in-law, and entered his abode and sat with Aphikia his wife and inquired of her, and she informed him of what had happened, and he glorified the Lord God of the name of Israel.
By the help of God, the story of Aphikia wife of Jesus the son of Sirach, vizier of Solomon the son of David, is finished and completed.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, one true God. To Him be glory, and on us His mercies for ever.
It was Alfarag who copied the book of Jesus the son of Sirach, and the story of his wife Aphikia, on Friday at the sixth hour, the fifth Friday of the holy fast, twenty-six days having passed of the month of Adar, the blessed, the second day of the feast of the Gospel, in the year 1885 of the Greeks, and this by the hand of the poor hoarse preacher, rich in sins, poor in good things, unlucky in works pleasing to God, by name a priest, by deed a robbing wolf, entitled by two names, Nekoula son of David of the village of Kafr Houra, in the district of Tarablus. This is by command of the Priest, Joseph the Syrian, the Jacobite, of Damascus, surnamed “Golden,” God be gracious to him for it! and guide him in the work of exposition and of its meanings, and give him the reward of his labour with us, as He prescribed by His holy mouth, one thirty-fold, sixty-fold and a hundred-fold, and cause him to dwell eternally in the pleasant gardens, in the bosoms of the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the saints. Amen. Amen. Amen.
It was written in the fortress Damascus, in the house of the [above] mentioned father, the priest Joseph.
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