Who Stole the Treasure: A Tale of King Solomon

Once three merchants went on a journey. As the sun began to set on Friday evening, they decided to bury their money in a safe place, since it is forbidden to carry money on the Sabbath. But when they went to retrieve the money at the conclusion of the Sabbath, it was gone! Each accused the two others of having stolen it, but no one confessed to the theft.

So they presented their case to King Solomon.

King Solomon"Before I decide the case," said Solomon, "let me ask your help on another matter. I know you are all wise men who have traveled the world and seen many things. I would like to ask your advice on a problem presented to me by the King of Rome. Perhaps you can help me solve it."

The three men were, of course, flattered to be consulted by the wise Solomon. "Tell us the problem," they said, "and we will try to help you."

Then the king told them this tale: "Once a girl and a boy became betrothed to each other when they were very young. They made a promise at that time that they would not marry anyone else without the other's permission. Soon after, the boy moved to a different city. When they grew up, the girl became engaged to another man but refused to marry him until she obtained the consent of her childhood friend. So the girl and her fiancé filled several sacks with gold and silver and traveled to the city where the friend of her youth now lived.

"When the girl told her friend that she wished to marry a different man, he gladly gave his blessing to the couple, refuse to accept any money to release the girl from her childhood oath.

"Then the happy couple began their journey home, but were surprised along the way by an old thief who wished to steal both the girl and the money.

"'You are welcome to the money,' the girl said to the thief, 'but please spare me.' The she told him about the mission they had just completed and added, 'If a young man like my friend can control his passion, how much easier it should be for an old man like you! Shouldn't you be filled with the fear of God at your age?'

"And the old thief took her words to heart and stole neither the girl nor the money, but let her and her fiancé go in peace.

Three Merchants
"Now," said Solomon to his three listeners, "I have been asked to decide which of these three acted the most nobly: the maid, the youth or the thief?"

The first merchant said, "The maid, for she kept her oath."

The second merchant said, "The youth, for he controlled his passion and did not stand in the way of his friend's happiness."

The third merchant said, "The thief, of course! He could have kept the money and still let the girl go!"

Then Solomon pointed at the third merchant and declared, "There is your culprit! By his admiration of the thief, he has displayed his own greed and given himself away."

The man confessed his crime and showed the others where he had hidden the money.


Barnes and Noble linkFrom: Frankel, Ellen, The Classic Tales: 4,000 Years of Jewish Lore. Copyright © 1989, 1993 by the author. (Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson) pp. 220-221



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