The king of demons in the universe of the rabbis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

This paper deals with the figure of the king of demons in rabbinic literature.
This figure, known in Palestinian rabbinic texts as Shamdon, and from the
Babylonian Talmud and magic bowls as Ashmedai, is portrayed quite differently in narratives of western and eastern origin. This paper aims to read rabbinic and extra-rabbinic sources (such as Jewish writings of the Second Temple period and Jewish Aramaic magic texts) in a nuanced way, emphasizing previously harmonized differences between these two configurations. Almost every introduction to Jewish demonology makes two claims: first, the demon Asmodeus,1 known from the Book of Tobit, became a prominent figure in the demonology of the Talmud, where his name is Ashmedai.2 Second, he is a king of the demons, who became Solomon’s unwilling helper in building the temple in Jerusalem. However, as I will show, this is an anachronistic generalization, and this demon obtained his royal office and probably his name only in the latest layers of rabbinic literature. I aim to show how the hierarchy of the demonic world was constructed differently by the imagination of Jews of the Land of Israel and the Jews of Sassanian Mesopotamia, according to their different cultural perceptions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDemons in Early Judaism and Christianity
Subtitle of host publicationCharacters, Characteristics, and Demonic Exegesis.
EditorsHector M. Patmore, Josef Lössl
Place of PublicationLeiden
PublisherBrill
Chapter13
Pages273-293
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9789004518148
ISBN (Print)9789004517141
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NameAncient Judaism and Early Christianity
Volume113

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Rabbinical literature -- History and criticism
  • Demonology in rabbinical literature
  • Jewish magic

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