Ahikar retires from active participation in affairs of state. He turns over his possessions to his treacherous nephew. Here is the amazing story of how a thankless profligate turns forgerer. A clever plot to entangle Ahikar results in his being condemned to death. Apparently the end of Ahikar.
THUS spake Haiqâr, and when he had finished these injunctions and proverbs to Nadan, his sister's son, he imagined that he would keep them all, and he knew not that instead of that he was displaying to him weariness and contempt and mockery.
2 Thereafter Haiqâr sat still in his house and delivered over to Nadan all his goods, and the slaves, and the handmaidens, and the horses, and the cattle, and everything else that he had possessed and gained; and the power of bidding and of forbidding remained in the hand of Nadan.
3 And Haiqâr sat at rest in his house, and every now and then Haiqâr went and paid his respects to the king, and returned home.
4 Now when Nadan perceived that the power of bidding and of forbidding was in his own hand, he despised the position of Haiqâr and scoffed at him, and set about blaming him whenever he appeared, saying, 'My uncle Haiqâr is in his dotage, and he knows nothing now.'
5 And he began to beat the slaves and the handmaidens, and to sell the horses and the camels and be spendthrift with all that his uncle Haiqâr had owned.
6 And when Haiqâr saw that he had no compassion on his servants nor on his household, he arose and chased him from his house, and sent to inform the king that he had scattered his possessions and his provision.
7 And the king arose and called Nadan and said to him: 'Whilst Haiqâr remains in health, no one shall rule over his goods, nor over his household, nor over his possessions.'
8 And the hand of Nadan was lifted off from his uncle Haiqâr and from all his goods, and in the meantime he went neither in nor out, nor did he greet him.
9 Thereupon Haiqâr repented him of his toil with Nadan his sister's son, and he continued to be very sorrowful.
10 And Nadan had a younger brother named Benuzârdân, so Haiqâr took him to himself in place of Nadan, and brought up and honoured him with the utmost honour. And he delivered over to him all that he possessed, and made him governor of his house.
11 Now when Nadan perceived what had happened he was seized with envy and jealousy, and he began to complain to every one who questioned him, and to mock his, uncle Haiqâr, saying: 'My uncle has chased me from his house, and has preferred my brother to me, but if the Most High God give me the power, I shall bring upon him the misfortune of being killed.'
12 And Nadan continued to meditate as to the stumbling-block he might contrive for him.
[paragraph continues] And after a while Nadan turned it over in his mind, and wrote a letter to Achish, son of Shah the Wise, king of Persia, saying thus:
13 'Peace and health and might and honour from Sennacherib king of Assyria and Nineveh, and from his vizier and his secretary Haiqâr unto thee, O great king! Let there be pence between thee and me.
14 And when this letter reaches thee, if thou wilt arise and go quickly to the plain of Nisrîn, and to Assyria, and Nineveh, I will deliver up the kingdom to thee without war and without battle-array.'
15 And he wrote also another letter in the name of Haiqâr to Pharaoh king of Egypt. 'Let there be peace between thee and me, O mighty king!
16 If at the time of this letter reaching thee thou wilt arise and go to Assyria and Nineveh to the plain of Nisrîn, I will deliver up to thee the kingdom without war and without fighting.'
17 And the writing of Nadan was like to the writing of his uncle Haiqâr.
18 Then he folded the two letters, and sealed them with the seal of his uncle Haiqâr; they were nevertheless in the king's palace.
19 Then he went and wrote a letter likewise from the king to his uncle Haiqâr: 'Peace and health to my Vizier, my Secretary, my Chancellor, Haiqâr.
20 O Haiqâr, when this letter reaches thee, assemble all the soldiers who are with thee, and let them be perfect in clothing and in numbers, and bring them to me on the fifth day in the plain of Nisrîn.
21 And when thou shalt see me there coming towards thee, haste and make the army move against me as an enemy who would fight with me, for I have with me the ambassadors of Pharaoh king of Egypt, that they may see the strength of our army and may fear us, for they are our enemies and they hate us.'
22 Then he sealed the letter and sent it to Haiqâr by one of the king's servants. And he took the other letter which he had written and spread it before the king and read it to him and showed him the seal.
23 And when the king heard what was in the letter he was perplexed with a great perplexity and was wroth with a great and fierce wrath, and said, 'Ah, I have shown my wisdom! what have I done to Haiqâr that he has written these letters to my enemies? Is this my recompense from him for my benefits to him?'
24 And Nadan said to him, 'Be not grieved, O king! nor be wroth, but let us go to the plain of Nisrîn and see if the tale be true or not.'
25 Then Nadan arose on the fifth day and took the king and the soldiers and the vizier, and they went to the desert to the plain of Nisrîn. And the king looked, and lo! Haiqâr and the army were set in array.
26 And when Haiqâr saw that the king was there, he approached and signalled to the army to move as in war and to fight in array against the king as it had been found in the letter, he not knowing what a pit Nadan had digged for him.
27 And when the king saw the act of Haiqâr he was seized with anxiety and terror and perplexity, and was wroth with a great wrath.
28 And Nadan said to him, 'Hast thou seen, O my lord the king! what this wretch has done? but be not thou wroth and be not grieved nor pained, but go to thy house and sit on thy throne, and I will bring
[paragraph continues] Haiqâr to thee bound and chained with chains, and I will chase away thine enemy from thee without toil.'
29 And the king returned to his throne, being provoked about Haiqâr, and did nothing concerning him. And Nadan went to Haiqâr and said to him, 'Wallah, O my uncle! The king verily rejoiceth in thee with great joy and thanks thee for having done what he commanded thee.
30 And now he hath sent me to thee that thou mayst dismiss the soldiers to their duties and come thyself to him with thy hands bound behind thee, and thy feet chained, that the ambassadors of Pharaoh may see this, and that the king may be feared by them and by their king.'
31 Then answered Haiqâr and said, 'To hear is to obey.' And he arose straightway and bound his hands behind him, and chained his feet.
32 And Nadan took him and went with him to the king. And when Haiqâr entered the king's presence he did obeisance before him on the ground, and wished for power and perpetual life to the king.
33 Then said the king, 'O Haiqâr, my Secretary, the Governor of my affairs, my Chancellor, the ruler of my State, tell me what evil have I done to thee that thou hast rewarded me by this ugly deed.'
34 Then they showed him the letters in his writing and with his seal. And when Haiqâr saw this, his limbs trembled and his tongue was tied at once, and he was unable to speak a word from fear; but he hung his head towards the earth and was dumb.
35 And when the king saw this, he felt certain that the thing was from him, and he straightway arose and commanded them to kill Haiqâr, and to strike his neck with the sword outside of the city.
36 Then Nadan screamed and said, 'O Haiqâr, O blackface! what avails thee thy meditation or thy power in the doing of this deed to the king?'
37 Thus says the story-teller. And the name of the swordsman was Abu Samîk. And the king said to him, 'O swordsman! arise, go, cleave the neck of Haiqâr at the door of his house, and cast away his head from his body a hundred cubits.'
38 Then Haiqâr knelt before the king, and said, 'Let my lord the king live for ever! and if thou desire to slay me, let thy wish be fulfilled; and I know that I am not guilty, but the wicked man bas to give an account of his wickedness; nevertheless, O my lord the king! I beg of thee and of thy friendship, permit the swordsman to give my body to my slaves, that they may bury me, and let thy slave be thy sacrifice.'
39 The king arose and commanded the swordsman to do with him according to his desire.
40 And he straightway commanded his servants to take Haiqâr and the swordsman and go with him naked that they might slay him.
41 And when Haiqâr knew for certain that he was to be slain he sent to his wife, and said to her, 'Come out and meet me, and let there be with thee a thousand young virgins, and dress them in gowns of purple and silk that they may weep for me before my death.
42 And prepare a table for the swordsman and for his servants. And mingle plenty of wine, that they may drink.'
43 And she did all that he commanded her. And she was very wise, clever, and prudent. And she united all possible courtesy and learning.
44 And when the army of the
king and the swordsman arrived the found the table set in order, and the wine and the luxurious viands, and they began eating and drinking till they were gorged and drunken.
45 Then Haiqâr took the swordsman aside apart from the company and said, 'O Abu Samîk, dost thou not know that when Sarhadum the king, the father of Sennacherib, wanted to kill thee, I took thee and hid thee in a certain place till the king's anger subsided and he asked for thee?
46 And when I brought thee into his presence he rejoiced in thee: and now remember the kindness I did thee.
47 And I know that the king will repent him about me and will be wroth with a great wrath about my execution.
48 For I am not guilty, and it shall be when thou shalt present me before him in his palace, thou shalt meet with great good fortune, and know that Nadan my sister's son has deceived me and has done this bad deed to me, and the king will repent of having slain me; and now I have a cellar in the garden of my house, and no one knows of it.
49 Hide me in it with the knowledge of my wife. And I have a slave in prison who deserves to be killed.
50 Bring him out and dress him in my clothes, and command the servants when they are drunk to slay him. They will not know who it is they are killing.
51 And cast away his head a hundred cubits from his body, and give his body to my slaves that they may bury it. And thou shalt have laid up a great treasure with me.
52 And then the swordsman did as Haiqâr had commanded him, and he went to the king and said to him, 'May thy head live for ever!'
53 Then Haiqâr's wife let down to him in the hiding-place every week what sufficed for him, and no one knew of it but herself.
54 And the story was reported and repeated and spread abroad in every place of how Haiqâr the Sage had been slain and was dead, and all the people of that city mourned for him.
55 And they wept and said: 'Alas for thee, O Haiqâr! and for thy learning and thy courtesy! How sad about thee and about thy knowledge! Where can another like thee be found? and where can there be a man so intelligent, so learned, so skilled in ruling as to resemble thee that he may fill thy place?'
56 But the king was repenting about Haiqâr, and his repentance availed him naught.
57 Then he called for Nadan and said to him, 'Go and take thy friends with thee and make a mourning and a weeping for thy uncle Haiqâr, and lament for him as the custom is, doing honour to his memory.'
58 But when Nadan, the foolish, the ignorant, the hardhearted, went to the house of his uncle, he neither wept nor sorrowed nor wailed, but assembled heartless and dissolute people and set about eating and drinking. 1
59 And Nadan began to seize the maidservants and the slaves belonging to Haiqâr, and bound them and tortured them and drubbed them with a sore drubbing.
60 And he did not respect the wife of his uncle, she who had brought him up like her own
boy, but wanted her to fall into sin with him.
61 But Haiqâr had been cut into the hiding-place, and he heard the weeping of his slaves and his neighbours, and he praised the Most High God, the Merciful One, and gave thanks, and he always prayed and besought the Most High God.
62 And the swordsman came from time to time to Haiqâr whilst he was in the midst of the hiding-place: and Haiqâr came and entreated him. And he comforted him and wished him deliverance.
63 And when the story was reported in other countries that Haiqâr the Sage had been slain, all the kings were grieved and despised king Sennacherib, and they lamented over Haiqâr the solver of riddles.
207:1 Compare this account of Nadan's revelry and his beating of the servants with Matthew XXIV. 48-51 and Luke XII. 43-46. You will see that the language of Ahikar has colored one of our Lord's parables.