Isidore Singer.

The Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 11) online

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the importance of the place as an emporium, many
foreign Jews settled there; so that allusions both to
the synagogue of the people of Guphna (Yer. Naz.
66a) and to a synairogiie of the Babylonians at Sep-
phoris are met with (Yer. Sanh. 28a; comp. Yer.
Sotah 22a). Millers of Sepphoris who did not work
on the semiholy days aie mentioned in approving




terms (Yer. Pes. 30d); and a tailor named Justus
was once governor of the place (Reland, "Palas-
tina," ii. 1001). Joseph b. Simai, a pious and prom-
inent man, who lived in olden times at Sihin in the
immediate vicinity of Sepphoris, is said to have
been "the governor of the king," this term proba-
bly denoting some prince of the house of Herod
(" epitropos " perhaps = " procurator " ; Shab. 121a ;
Tos. Shab. xiii. 9).

Despite the fact that Sepphoris was the seat of
prominent Talmudic scholars and of great academies,
and thus owed its importance in later times to the
Rabbis, its inhabitants were by no means friendly
to them. Although the people showed their sym-
pathy on the death of R. Judah I. (Yer. Ket. 32b;
Bab. Ket. 103b), and although the citj^ had a school
of its own, which was termed simply the "Sep-
phorian " (Yer. Shab. 7a; Yer. M. K. 82d), neverthe-
less the people were likened to "desert, obscurity,
and darkness" (Yer. Hag. 77a); and it was said
of them: "The people of Sepphoris have a hard
heart : they hear the words of the Law ; but they
do not bow down before it " (Yer. Ta'an. 66c). R.
Hama b. Hanina was even refused ordination as a
teacher solely because he was a native of the place
(Y'er. Ta'an. 68a).

The exact site of this important city may be de-
termined through several references. A series of
caves and military outposts extended from Tiberias
to Sepphoris (Yer. 'Er. 22b); and it was situated in
upper Galilee (Tos. Pe'ah iv. 10; Ket. 67b). Ac-
cording to the Talmudic references, the city lay
eighteen Roman miles from Tiberias;
Exact Site, but, according to Eusebius and Je-
rome, only ten, thus being west of Mt.
Tabor; still another passage of the Talmud locates
it half-way between Kefar 'Utui and Kefar Hanan-
yah (Bek. 55a). All these data justify an identi-
fication with the modern Saffuriyah, a village north-
west of Nazareth.

The fact that Benjamin of Tudela refers to the
city, but says nothing of any Jews there, shows that
Sepphoris had no Jewish population in the twelfth
century, probably in consequence of the Crusades.
R. Moses Israel, who flourished in the early part of
the eighteenth century, refers to its Jewish commu-
nity ; but no Jews now (1905 ) live in the city (Grlin-
liut, "Benjamin von Tudela," ii. 15, Jerusalem,

Bibliography: Robinson, Rcsearchei<, iii. 440; Sepp, Jfn/.«rt-
lem utuI (ins Heilim Land, ii. 98 ; Boettger, Topoy/Yip/u'.sr/i-
Historiwhcs Lcricon zu ilcn Schriften des Fhii^his Jime-
phus, p. 229; Neubauer, (i. T. pp. 191-19.5: Hamburger, R.
B. T. ii. 1115; Buhl, Gei>iirni>hie von Paiam)uu p. 220;
Schiirer, Gesch. 'M ed., ii. 163-16"; Luacz, Hameammer, i.
G. S. Kr.

SEPTUAGINT. See Bible Thaxslatioxs.

SEPULVEDA : City in the bishopric of Sego-
via, Spain, inhabited by Jews as early as the elev-
enth century. Its old laws contained a paragraph
(No. 71) to the effect that if a Jew had intercourse
with a Christian woman, he should be condemned
to be garroted and she to be burned, and that, in case
the man denied his guilt, yet was convicted on the
testimony of two Christians and one Jew, the sen-
tence should be carried out. The aljama of Sepul-

veda, which was not large, although the taxes
amounted in 1290 to 5,046 maravedis, is best known
on account of a martyrdom suffered by its mem-
bers. In Holy Week, 1468, the report was spread
by their enemies that, on the advice of their rabbi,
Solomon Picho, the Jews had tortured and cruci-
fied a Christian child. Thereupon Juan Arias
Davila, Bishop of Segovia, son of the baptized Jew
Diego Arias D.wila, caused eighteen of the alleged
ringleaders to be taken to Segovia, some of whom
were condemned to the stake and others to the gal-
lows. The excited populace, which thought the
fanatical bishop had proceeded too mildly, attacked
the remaining Jews and killed most of them, only a
few finding refuge in flight.

Bibliography: Colmenures, Historia de Seooria, ch. xxxili.
(for the year 1468); Zacuto, YuJiasin, ed. Filipowslii, p. 226
(gives Saturday, the 26th of Siwan = June 15, 1471, as the day
of the execution); Kios, Hist. i. 181, iii. 166; Gratz,
viii. 239.

J. M. K.

physician; born at Lisbon 1738; died in London
Nov., 1816. He came of a medical family, his
grandfather, father, and two uncles having all been
physicians. He was instructed in general literature
and philosophy by the Fathers of the Oratory, a
body of learned men then highly popular in Portu-
gal. Having chosen medicine as his profession, he
was sent to the University of Bordeaux, France,
where he remained for two years. He then removed
to Leyden, and, completing the three years' residence
which the statutes of the university required, re-
ceived his M.D. degree Aug. 31, 1758. Eventually
he settled in London, was admitted a licentiate of
tlie Royal College of Physicians (March 25, 1771),
and was introduced into practise by his uncle. Dr.
de la Cour, who soon after withdrew to Bath.

Sequira gained a high reputation among his coun-
trymen resident in England. He held the honorary
appointment of physician extraordinary to the
Prince Regent of Portugal, and was physician to
the Portuguese embassy at the Court of St. James.
He lived to an advanced age, and at the time of his
death was the oldest licentiate of the Royal College
of Physicians.

bibliography: Csirmoly, Les Medeciux Juifs: tiluuk, Rull of
Rdual College of Physicians of London.
J. G. L.

SEBAH : Daughter of Asher, son of Jacob. She
is counted among the seventy members of the patri-
arch's famil}' who emigrated from Canaan to Egypt
(Gen. xlvi. 17), and her name occurs in connection
with the census taken by Moses in the wilderness
(Num. xxvi. 46). She is mentioned also among
the descendants of Asher in I Chron. vii. 30. The
fact of her beitig the only one of her sex to be
mentioned in the genealogical lists seemed to the
Rabbis to indicate that there was something ex-
traordinary in connection with her history; and she
became the heroine of several legends. According
to one of these, she was not Asher's daughter,
but his stepdaughter. She was three years old
when Asher married her mother, and she was
brought up in the house of Jacob, whose affection
she won by her remarkable piety and virtue ("Mid-
rash Abot," p. 45). She was the first person to tell




Jacob tliat Jiis son Joseph was still living; and for
this reason the patriarch blessed her with eternal life
(lb.). Moses addressed himself to Serah when he
wished to learn where the remains of Joseph were
to be buried (Sotah 13a; Deut. li. xi.). According
to the JMidrash (Eccl. R. vii. 11), Serah was "the
wise woman" who caused the death of Shcba ben
Bichri (II Sam. xx.)- In reference to the grave of
Serah bat Asher and the synagogue named in her
honor at Ispahan, see Jew. Encyc. vi. 660.

w. B. I. Br.

SEBAIAH (mK*)- — 1. A scribe, and one of
the officials under David (II Sam. viii. 17; comp.
XX. 25, where he appears under the name Sheva).
In I Kings iv. 3 his sons, Elihoreph and Ahiah, oc-
cupy the position of their father (here called Shi-
sha), this implying that Seraiah had died before
Solomon's accession. In I Chron. xviii. 16 he is
called Shavsha. A comparison of these four
forms justifies the conclusion that his real family
name was Shavsha or Shisha (comp. Klostermann,
"Die Biicher Samuelis und der KOnige," in "Kurz-
gefasster Kommentar zu den Heiligen Schriften " ;
Thenius, "Die Blicher Samuelis," in " Kurzgefasstes
Exegetisches Handbuch ").

2. Chief priest during the reign of Zedekiah,
mentioned with Zephaniah, the second priest; both
were executed, with others of rank, by Nebuchad-
nezzar at Riblah (II Kings xxv. 18, 21 ; Jer. lii. 24-
27). Seraiah was the son of Azariah (I Chron. vi.
14), and the father of Ezra the Scribe (Ezra vii. 1).

3. The son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and
one of the heroic band that saved themselves from
the fury of Nebuchadnezzar when he stormed Jeru-
salem. They repaired to Gedaliah, the son of Ahi-
kara, but killed him on account of his allegiance to
the Chaldeans (II Kings xxv. 25). In the parallel
passage, Jer. xl. 8, the sons of Ephai the Netopha-
thite are mentioned in addition to Seraiah.

4. Sou of Kenaz, and younger brother of Oth-
niel, and father of Joab, the chief of Ge-harashim (I
Chron. iv. 13, 14, R. V.).

5. Grandfather of Jehu, of the tribe of Simeon (I
Chron. iv. 35).

6. Priest, third in the list of those who returned
from Babylon to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel (Ezra
ii. 2; Neh. vii. 7 [here called Azariah], xii. 1), and
third also in the record of those who sealed the
covenant binding all Jews not to take foreign wives
(Neh. X. 2). As the son of Hilkiah, and conse-
quently a direct descendant of the priestly family,
he became governor of the Temple when it was re-
built (Neh. xi. 11). He is mentioned (under the name
Azariah) also in I Chron. ix. 11.

7. Son of Azriel, one of those whom Jehoiakim
commanded to imprison Jeremiah and Baruch, the
son of Neriah (Jer. xxxvi. 26).

8. The son of Neriah, who went into banishment
with Zedekiah. He bore the name also of Sar Menu-
hah (= "prince of repose"; comp. the commen-
taries of Dillmann and Nowack, ad lor.). The Tar-
gum renders " Sar Menuhah " by " Rab Takrubta "
(= " prince of battle "), and tlie Septuagint by (jf)xojv
6c)puv ( = " prince of gifts" [reading "Minhah" for
"Menuhah"]). At the request of Jeremiah he car-
ried with him in his exile the passages containing

the prophet's warning of the fall of Babylon, writ-
ten in a book which he was bidden to bind to a stone
and cast into the Euphrates, to symbolize the fall of
Babylon (Jer. li. 59-64).

E. G. H. S. O.

SEBAPHIM (D'Sltr) : Class of heavenly be-
ings, mentioned only once in the Old Testament, in
a vision of the prophet Isaiah (vi. 2 et seq.). Isaiah
saw several seraphim, their exact number not being

given, standing before the throne of

Vision of Yhwh. They were winged beings,

Isaiah. each having six wings — two covering

their faces, two covering their feet,
and two for flying. The seraphim cry continually
to each other, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of
hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory" (vi. 3).
The "foundations of the thresholds" (R. V.) of the
Temple were moved by the sound of their voices.
One of the seraphim flew to Isaiah with a live coal
in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from
off the altar, and with which he touched the lips of
the prophet to purge him from sin. Isaiah gives no
further description of the form and appearance of
the seraphim; he apparently assumes that his read-
ers are acquainted with them. Nevertheless, it may
be concluded from the description that the seraphim
were conceived as having human faces, human
hands, and human voices. However, one should
not too hastily conclude that the seraphim were
winged human forms. At least this was not the
original conception, although later Judaism pictured
them so. The seraphim are frequently mentioned
in the Book of Enoch (xx. 7, 1x1. 10, Ixxi. 7), where
they are designated as dpamveQ ("serpents"), and are
always mentioned, in conjunction with the cheru-
bim, as the heavenly creatures standing nearest to
God. In Rev. iv. 6-8 four animals are pictured as
standing near the throne of God ; each has six
wings, and, as in Isaiah, they sing the "Trisagion."
The passages cited furnish conclusive evidence
against the idea, popular for a time, that the sera-
phim belong to the same category as angels. They

have nothing whatever to do with the
Meaning. " messengers of God " ; in the Jewish

conception the two have always been
distinguished. Dan. x. 13, the Book of Tobit, and
other sources, afford information concerning a series
of " chief " angels, but allusions to the seraphim are
entirely lacking, and an etymological connection of
the name "seraf " with the Arabic "sharif " (to be
exaltetl or distinguished) is equallj'^ valueless.

On the other hand, there is a striking similarity be-
tween the seraphim and cherubim. Both arc winged
creatures, half human, half animal ; both stand near
the throne of God, and appear as its guardians; and,
as has already been stated, they are always men-
tioned together in the Book of Enoch. This, how-
ever, by no means proves that the origin of the two
was the same; it only shows that in later Jewish
conception, as well as in the conception of the con-
temporaries of Isaiah, these two classes of heavenly
beings' were closely related.

Some authorities hold that the seraphim had their
origin in the Egyptian "seref," a composite, winged
creature, half lion and half eagle, which guarded
graves, carried dead kings up to heaven, and trans-


Serra^lio degrli Xlbrei



mitted prayers thitlier. The form and office of the
seref, however, suggest rather the Jewish cheru-

According to other investigators, the conception

was of Babylonian origin. Friedrich Delitzsch and

Hotamel associate tlie seraphim with the Assyrian

" sliarrapu," a name which, in Canaan,

Babylo- designated the Babylonian fire-god
nian Nergai. The seraphim, then, would

Origin. be the flames in which this god mani-
fested himself. An argument against
this theory is that until now no one lias been able to
show that the word "seraph" was ever used as a
name of a god. According to a third and more
probable theor\', the seraphim originally were ser-
pents, as the name implies. Among many peoples
of antiquity serpents played an important part in
myth and folk-lore. Forinstance, there were Tiamat
in the Babylonian legend of the Creation, and the
Urseus serpent in Egypt. Consequently, since the
Jews shared the superstitious ideas of surrounding
nations in other respects, it should not be a matter
of wonder if they adopted this notion as well. That
the serpent filled a special role among them as
a demoniacal being may be seen from the story of
Adam's fall (Gen. iii.). In this connection the
names " Dragon Spring " and " Serpent Pool " (places
in the vicinity of Jerusalem) are worthy of being
noted. A brazen serpent brings relief from the
effects of the bite of the fiery serpents (Num. xxi, 9
et ««g.) which YnwH sent among his disobedient peo-
ple in the wilderness. Isaiah (xiv. 29, xxx. 6) speaks
of fiery, flying serpents and dragons; and a brazen
serpent, Nehushtan, stood in the Temple at Jerusa-
lem, and was an object of worship until the time
of Hezekiah, who destroyed it as being idolatrous
(II Kings xviii. 4 et seq.). The worship of Ne-
hushtan Avas plainly a remnant of ancient super-
stition, and was reconciled with the worship of
Yhwh by connecting Nehushtan with the scourge
of snakes in the wilderness and the rescue from them
(Num. xxi. 9 et seq.). Therefore the theory seems
possible, even probable, that the seraphim have their
counterpart in the flying serpents of Isaiah (comp.
also II Esd. XV. 29). It is only natural that these
winged guardians of Yhwh's throne were soon
ranked as higher beings and invested with the hu-
man form or with some features of the human
body ; and it was because of the very fact that they
were adopted into tlie Yhwh cult that they were, in
process of time, ennobled and spiritualized.

E. G. H. I. Be.

SEREBSZCZYZNA ("silver tax"): Land-tax
imposed upon theinhabitantsof Lithuania and Rus-
sia in the Middle Ages, and deriving its name from
the fact that it had to be paid all in silver. Origi-
nally Russia liad to pay the "serebszczyzna" to the
Tatars, and later to Poland and Lithuania. In the
course of time it became a state tax throughout
Lithuania and all the provinces taken from the Rus-
sians. The "serebszczyzna" is often mentioned in
documents concerning the Jewish communities of
Lithuania, mostly in cases where the Jews had suc-
cessfully applied for exemption from it. This must
not, however, be regarded as implying a special

privilege granted to them, but only as an act of
justice, inasmuch as they paid their general taxes
annually in a lump sum according to an assessment
fixed at the annual sessions of the Diet.
H. R. G. D. R.

SERENE (SERENXJS): Pseudo-Messiah of
the beginning of the eighth century; a native of
Syria. The name is a Latin form of TIK', which is
found in a responsum of Natronai Gaon ("Sha'are
Zedek," p. 24a, b). Gregorius bar Hebraeus (" Chroni-
con Syriacum,"ed. Kirsch and Bruns, p. 123), how-
ever, speaking of the same false Messiah, writes his
name X11SD, which was rendered "Severus" by the
translators of the chronicle. Natronai states in his
responsum {I.e.) that Serene represented himself as
the Messiah, establishing certain religious observ-
ances opposed to the rabbinical law, abolishing
prayer, neglecting the laws of "terefah," not guard-
ing the wine against "nesek," working on the
second holy day, and abolishing both the ketubah
and certain incest laws established by the scribes.

The date of Serene's appearance is given by
Isidor Pacensis ("Chronicon," in Florez's "Espafia
Sagrada," viii. 298) as 103 of the Hegira (c. 720 c.e.),
which was during the reign of Yazid II. This
same historian states that in Spain many Jews
abandoned all their property and prepared to join
the supposed Messiah. The latter, indeed, owing to
his promise to put the Jews in possession of the
Holy Land, and, perhaps, owing to his hostility to-
ward the Talmud, gained many adherents. He was
finally captured and taken before Yazid II., who
put some questions to him concerning his Messianic
qualities which he was unable to answer. He de-
clared that he had never had any serious design
against the calif, and that he desired only to mock
the Jews, whereupon he was handed to the latter for
punishment. His adherents, having repented of
their credulity, on the advice of Natronai Gaon were
received again into their communities.

Bibliography : Gratz, Gesch. 3d ed., y. 152 et seq., note 14.
J. M. Sel.

SERPENT : The following terms are used in the
Old Testament to denote serpents of one kind or
another: (1) "nahash," the generic and most fre-
quently used term; (2) "peten" (asp or adder;
Deut. xxxii. 33; Isa. xi. 8; et al.), perhaps identical
with the Egyptian cobra {Naja haje), which is
found in southern Palestine, and is frequently kept
by snake-charmers ; (3) "zefa' " (A. V. "cockatrice,"
R. V. "basilisk," LXX. "asp"; Isa. xiv. 29); (4)
"zif'oni" (adder, basilisk, cockatrice; Isa. xi. 8, lix.
5, et al.), perhaps the large viper {Buboia xanthina);
it is identified also, by some, with the cat-snake
{Tarbophis fallax); (o) "ef'eh" (Arabic, "af'a" =
"viper"), connected in Isa. xxx. 6 with Egypt; (6)
"shefifon" (adder; Gen. xlix. 17 [R. V., margin,
" horned snake "]), perhaps identical with the Cerasta
hasselquistii, said to have been the asp with which
Cleopatra killed herself; (7) " 'akshub " (Ps. cxl. 3;
LXX. "asp," Arabic version, "viper," A. and R.
V. " adder " ; Talmud and Rashi, a kind of spider, or
tarantula [comp. " 'akkabish "]); (8) "zohale 'afar"
(Deut. xxxii. 24; comp. Micah vii. 17, which desig-
nates the serpent as creeping on the earth); (9)




Serra^rlio de^li Ebrei

"tannin" (Ex. vii. 9 etseq.; elsewhere, "dragon,"
"monster"); (10) "kippoz" (Isa. xxxiv. 15; A. V.
"great owl," W. V. "arrow-snake"; the connection
suggests some bird); (11) "saraf" and "nahash
saraf" (Num. xxi. 6; Deut. viii. 15; the epithet
" fiery " probabl}- refers to the burning sensation and
inflammation caused by the venom of the snake).

The idea of flying serpents ("saraf me'ofef "; Isa.
xiv. 29, XXX. 6) rests, perhaps, on the confusion of
serpents with lizards, which is found also in classical
writers. They belong to those fanciful creatures
with which folk-lore peoples the desert regions
("Pal. Explor. Fund, Quarterly Statement," 1894,
p. 30). For the "nahash bariah " and "nahash
'akalaton " in Isa. xxvii. 1 see Leviathan.

Serpents abound in Palestine, as well as in Egypt,
the Sinaitic Peninsula, and the Arabian desert. Ac-
cording to Tristram, the serpent tribe is represented
in Palestine by eighteen species, mostly belonging
to the genera Ablabea and Zamanis, of the ColubridcB

The qualities and habits attributed to the serpent
in the Old Testament are subtlety (comp. Gen. iii.
1), the disposition to lie concealed in holes, walls,
and thickets (comp. Amos v. 19; Eccl. x. 8; Prov.
XXX. 18-19), and the habit of eating dust (comp.
Gen. iii. 14; Isa. Ixv. 25), a belief in which was
common among the Greeks and Romans. The art
of serpent-charming is referred to in Ex. iv. 3, vii. 9,
Jer. viii. 17, and Eccl. x. 11. The ability to stiffen
serpents into rods is still possessed by Oriental jug-

The generic names for the serpent are " nahash "

and N'lin (Ber. 12b). Like fish, the snake has its

eyes in the sides of its head (Niddah

In the 23a) ; and it is endowed with a keen

Talmud, sense of hearing ('Ab. Zarah 30b). Its
back is curved, its belly flat (Ned. 25a).
Its mode of progression is by slowly raising first the
head and then gradually the rest of the body (Ber.
12b). Serpents copulate with their bellies turned
toward each other ; the period of gestation is seven
years, during which intercourse continues (Bek.
8a). The serpent lives in empty cisterns and in
houses, where it has a dangerous enemy in the cat,
the latter being immune to its poison (Hag. Za.etal.).
It tastes dust in whatever it eats; still it is fond of
water, wine, milk, and melted suet (Ter. viii. 4;
'Ab. Zarah 30a, b; Shab. 85a; Bezah 7b). It is
driven off by the smoke of the burning antler of the
hart (Yalkut Shim'oni, ii. 97c; comp. ^lianus, "De
Natura Animalium," ix. 20; Pliny, "Historia Natu-
ralis," viii. 33, 50). The skin of the serpent was
made into covers for the seats of kings (Yer. Ned.
iv. ; Hal. 3); and in Pirke R. El. xx. (comp. Gen.
R. xxiv. 6) it is said that the garments of Adam and
Eve (Gen. iii. 21) were made of the same material.

The poison of the serpent forms a coherent mass

(B. K. 115b). It varies in strength and weight.

That of a young serpent is heaviest, and falls to the

bottom when dropped into a vessel of

Their water; that of an older one remains

Poison. suspended midway; and that of a

very old one floats on the surface.

While the serpent is one of the three creatures which

grow stronger with age (the other two being the

fish and the swine), the intensity and deadliness of
its poison decreases with advancing age ('Ab. Zarah
30b). The poison of the serpent is deadly ('Ab.
Zarah 31b). If it is left in the woimd it causes a
burning pain, so that one sentenced to die by fire
may be bitten by a snake instead (Sot.ah 8b). The
poison spreads through the whole body, and it is
therefore dangerous to eat the flesh of an animal
which was bitten by a snake (Ter. viii. 6), and even
to wear sandals made from its hide (Hul. 94a, Rashi),
If the bone of a snake enters the foot death may
result (Pes. 112b). The snake alone of all animals
harms Avithout gain to itself, and is therefore com-
pared to the slanderer (Ta'an. 8a et al.). It is also
revengeful (Yoma 23a). Still, it seldom attacks un-
less provoked; and it gives warning by hissing (Ber.
33a; Shab. 121b). The snakes of Palestine were
considered particularly dangerous {ib.); but it is
mentioned as one of the perpetual miracles of Jeru-
salem that no one there was ever bitten by a snake
(Ab. V. 5).

The flesh of the snake, mixed with other things,
was considered the most effective antidote against
the poison of the snake as well as of other animals
(Shab. 109b). Other cures for snake-bite are: pla-
cing the bitten part into the body of a hen which
has been opened alive; applying to the wound the
embryo taken from the womb of a sound, white
she-ass; and putting crushed gnats on the wound
(Yoma 83b ; Shab. 77b, 109b). A snake cooked in
olive-oil was considered a curative for itch (Shab.

Probably the anaconda is referred to in Ned. 25a
et al., where it is related that in the time of Shabur
a serpent devoured the straw of thirteen stables.

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