Eliezer

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ELIEZER

ELIEZER (Heb. אֶלִיעֶזֶר; "God is help"), the steward of *Abraham's household (Gen. 15:2).

In the Bible

Eliezer's name appears in the text immediately following the word "Dammesek." While English "Tokyo Rose" is syntactically unobjectionable, "Damascus Eliezer" is foreign to Hebrew. Ginsberg (in bibliography) suggests accordingly that dammeseq eliezer is a phantom resulting from scribal corruption. Alternatively, "Dammesek Eliezer" is simply the name of the steward, composed of two words. According to the story, Abraham complained to God that material reward would be of little use to him since, because he had no offspring, his servant Eliezer was to be his heir. God replied with the promise of a natural heir (Gen. 15:4ff.). This episode is made clear in light of the Nuzi archives, which frequently mention the filial adoption of a stranger, sometimes a slave, by a childless couple to tend them in old age and perform their funeral rites in return for being their heir. Sometimes, complications might arise where a natural son would be born after the adoption, as in the case of Eliezer. The Nuzi contracts, however, carefully set out the rights and obligations of both parties in such eventualities.

In the Aggadah

Although nowhere so mentioned specifically in the narrative, Eliezer is identified by the rabbis with the anonymous servant sent by Abraham to find a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24). He is thus made the prototype of the loyal and selfless servant, fulfilling his master's wish even to his own disadvantage. He had a daughter whom he hoped Isaac would marry, and the failure of his mission would have made this possible (Gen. R. 59:9). He is credited with having acquired all the virtues and learning of his master. His name, "Eliezer of Damascus" is interpreted as meaning that he drew from and provided others with his master's teachings (Dammesek = doleh u-mashkeh; Yoma 28b). He even resembled Abraham in his physical appearance, and Laban mistook him for his master (Gen. R. 60:7). Raised in Nimrod's court, Eliezer was presented to Abraham after his miraculous deliverance from the fiery furnace (Sefer ha-Ya shar, Noah 42). Eliezer alone went with Abraham to rescue Lot, the gematria of his name being 318, the number of Abraham's servants given in the Bible as constituting his army (Gen. 14:14; Tanh. B., Gen. 73). Later, Eliezer visited Sodom where he was victim of the injustices practiced in that city (Sanh. 109b; see also *Sodom in the Aggadah). Despite his admirable qualities, Eliezer still remained a member of the cursed Canaanite nation. He is identified as one of the two lads who accompanied Abraham and Isaac to the * akedah (Lev. R. 26:7), and who remained at the foot of Mount Moriah because they could not see the vision which was vouchsafed to Abraham and Isaac (Gen. R. 56:2). Eliezer was wrongly suspected of having defiled Rebekah during their journey from Haran (pdre 16).

As a reward for successfully discharging his mission, he was emancipated by Abraham and given the kingdom of Bashan, over which he reigned under the name of Og (pdre 16). The curse resting upon Eliezer, as upon all descendants of Canaan, was transformed into a blessing because of his loyal service to Abraham (Gen. R. 60:7). His greatest recompense was that God found him worthy of entering Paradise alive, a distinction accorded to very few (dez 1).

There are nine other biblical personages of the same name: (1) Moses' younger son (Ex. 18:4; i Chron. 23:15, 17; 26:25); (2)–(9) see i Chron. 7:8; 15:24; 27:16; ii Chron. 20; 37; Ezra 8:16; 10:18, 23, 31.

bibliography:

in the bible: W.F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1970), 57–58 and note 30; L. Feigin, in: jbl, 50 (1931), 186–200; E.M. Cassin (ed.), L'Adoption a Nuzi (1938); M.D. Cassuto, in: em, 2 (1954), 675–6; O. Eissfeldt, in: jss, 5 (1960), 48–9; W.F. Albright, in: basor, 163 (1961), 47 and n. 54; E.A. Speiser, Genesis (1954), 111–2; N.M. Sarna, Genesis (1989), 382–83. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index; L.I. Rabinowitz, in: jqr, 58 (1967/68), 143–61. add. bibliography: H.L. Ginsberg, in: basor, 200 (Albright Anniversary; 1970), 31–2.