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The Messianic Pretender Solomon Ibn Al Ruji And His Son Menahem (The So-Called "David Alroy")

Norman Golb

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

The earliest source describing the messianic pretension initiated by Solomon ibn al Ruji in Kurdistan is the historical memoir of Obadiah the Proselyte, who apparently learned of it while sojourning in Baghdad approximately a decade after its inception during the Egyptian vezirate of al Afdal (exercised power from 1094 to 1121). Obadiah’s Hebrew statement may be rendered into English as follows:

In those days there arose "children of the violent" among the nation of Israel, who lifted up their souls to establish a vision and stumbled in their words. In the mountains of Assyria, in the land of Hakkeriya, there arose a certain Jew named Solomon ben Ruji, the name of whose son was Menahem; and with them was a glib man named Ephraim b. R. Azariah the Jerusalemite, known as ben Fadhlun. They wrote letters to all the Jews near and far in all the lands which were round about them, so that their renown and the contents of their letters reached a far distance. Unto all the places which are upon the face of the earth where the Jews are scattered amongst all the nations beneath the heavens did their renown reach. All of them said that the time had come when the Lord would gather his nation Israel from all the lands unto Jerusalem the holy city, and that Solomon b. Ruji was the King Messiah. When all the Jews residing in the various lands heard the words of their letters, they rejoiced greatly. The waited days, months and years, but did not see anything. Many of the Jews spent many days in fasting, prayer and charitable acts, for they were awaiting the Lord’s salvation, as He had said through His servants the prophets. When they failed to see anything, their hearts were utterly broken within them, and the Jews became ashamed before all the gentiles (Muslims). For all the gentiles and the uncircumcised ones (=Christians) heard the rumors that came to the Jews, and they would all laugh and mock at the Jews and would say, "Behold the Jews want to fly, yet they have no wings with which to fly to their land!" They continued goading, calumniating and cursing the Jews, and the gentiles would say that everything that the Jews had was false and vain. (ed. Golb, pp. 100 - 101.)

Revised: October 1, 2009

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