ELIEZER ("God is help"):
1. Servant of Abraham; mentioned by name only in Gen. xv. 2, a passage which presents some difficulties. Eliezer is described by Abraham as (R. V. "possessor of my house") and as (R. V. "Dammesek-Eliezer"). According to Eduard König ("Syntax," § 306h) here, as frequently, has the force of an adjective or participle, and the phrase "ben mesheḳ" (steward; comp. , Zeph. xi. 9, and , Job xxviii. 18) is the subject of the sentence, which reads "and the steward of my house is this Damascene [Onḳ. and Pesh.] Eliezer," "Damasheḳ" being used intentionally for the adjective "Damashḳi" on account of the assonance with "mesheḳ" (König, "Stilistik," 1900, p. 291). Holzinger ("Genesis") and Gunkel ("Genesis") think the Masoretic text of xv. 2 has no meaning, and Cheyne and Black ("Encyc. Bibl." col. 1269) condemn it as absurd and incorrect, but no satisfactory emendation has been suggested.
That Abraham, on his way from Haran, passed through Damascus is certainly not improbable. Naḥmanides connects him with that city, as do various traditions (Justinus, "Historiæ," xxvi. 2; Judith v. 6 et seq.; Josephus, "Ant." vii. 1, viii. 2; Eusebius, "Præparatio Evangelica," ix. 7 et seq.). He may there have acquired this servant, who is also spoken of in Gen. xxiv., though the name is not given, in connection with the commission to choose a wife for Isaac. Still, even the Rabbis felt the difficulties of the present text, as their various interpretations of show. According to Eleazar b. Pedath, it denotes Eliezer as one "that draws and gives others to drink" ()—that is, imparts toothers the teachings of his master (Yoma 18b; comp. Rashi ad loc.). Others found in the word "mesheḳ" an allusion to his coveting () Abraham's possessions. In lies the indication that Abraham pursued the kings (Gen. xiv.) to Damascus, and the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and Yerushalmi read: "through whom many miracles were wrought for me in Damascus" (comp. Gen. R. xliv.).
That Eliezer took part in that battle, or was, perhaps, the only combatant at Abraham's side, the Rabbis find indicated in the number (318) of the soldiers (Gen. xiv. 14), the numerical value of the letters in being 1 + 30 + 10 + 70 + 7 + 200 = 318 (Gen. R. xliii., xliv.; Pesiḳ. 70a, b; Ned. 32a; Shoḥer Ṭob to Ps. cx.; compare Ep. Barnabas ix.; it is the classical illustration of
- Kittel, Gesch. der Hebräer, ii. 124;
- Holzinger, Kurzer Handkommentar zur Genesis, p. 144;
- H. Winckler, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, 1900, ii. 27;
- Gunkel, Handkommentar zur Genesis, pp. 164, 231, 259.
Eliezer was presented to Abraham by Nimrod. Once Eliezer saved Abraham's life by disclosing to him the devices for his destruction prepared by Nimrod (Pirḳe R. El. xvi.). At Sodom Eliezer saw a native maltreating a stranger: taking the part of the wronged man, he was himself severely wounded. He brought suit against his aggressor, but the judge condemned Eliezer to pay to the native of Sodom a certain amount of money for having been bled. Thereupon Eliezer inflicted a severe wound upon the judge, saying: "Pay to the man who bled me the amount you owe me for having bled you." The men of Sodom used to place a guest on a bed, and if his length exceeded that of the bed they cut off the excess, but if the man was shorter than the bed he was stretched (comp. the Greek legend of Procrustes). Asked to lie in the bed, Eliezer replied that at the death of his mother he had vowed never to sleep in a bed. Another custom in Sodom was that he who invited a stranger to a wedding should forfeit his coat. Once Eliezer, being very hungry, entered a house where a wedding was being celebrated, but could get nothing to eat. He then sat down next one of the wedding guests; on being asked by him who had invited him, he replied: "By you." The latter, fearing to lose his coat, left the house precipitately. Eliezer then sat near another, on whom he played the same trick, with the same result, until at last he had succeeded in driving all the guests out of the house. He then secured the meal for himself (Sanh. 109b).Eliezer and Abraham.
Eliezer is credited with having acquired all the virtues and learning of his master (Yoma 28b). It is even said that his features resembled so closely those of Abraham that Laban mistook him for his kinsman. When Abraham led Isaac to Mount Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice, Eliezer cherished the hope of becoming Abraham's heir, and a discussion on this subject arose between him and Ishmael (Pirḳe R. El. xxxi.). On completing the mission of selecting a wife for Isaac he was freed, and God rewarded him with the kingdom of Bashan, over which he reigned under the name of "Og." It was he who refused to allow the Israelites to go through his territory on their way to Palestine (Masseket Soferim, end). His size was so vast that from one of his teeth, which he had lost through fright when scolded by Abraham, the latter made a chair on which he used to sit. In the treatise Derek Ereẓ Zuṭa (i. 9) Eliezer is counted among the nine who entered paradise while still living.
2. The second son of Moses; mentioned in Ex. xviii. 4; I Chron. xxiii. 15, 17. The name is explained (Ex. l.c.) to mean "the God of my father was mine help" (the ב of the predicate; see Koenig, "Syntax," § 338). Rashi, quoting the Mekilta, relates a miraculous incident to account for the choice of the name, while Ibn Ezra makes it expressive of the joy of Moses upon hearing of the death of the Pharaoh who had proscribed him. The historical existence of this son has been doubted. Ex. ii. 22 and iv. 25 mention only one son—Gershom. Ibn Ezra felt the difficulty, but concluded that the one son mentioned in iv. 25 is Eliezer; while Naḥmanides argues that there was another son, but that there had been no occasion to mention him before. Ex. iv. 20 indicates that Moses, before leaving for Egypt, whether with his family (Ex. iv. 20) or without it (Ex. xviii. 2), had more than one son; and the reading = "her son" (iv. 25) may be a miswriting for = "her sons," agreeing with xviii. 3. Baentsch ("Exodus-Leviticus") holds that "Eliezer" is a double for "Eleazar," the son of Aaron, while Holzinger ("Exodus," p. 7) accounts for the uncertainty by arguing that in view of Judges xviii. 30 P intentionally omitted all reference to the sons.
3. A prophet, the son of Dodavah of Mareshah, who opposed the alliance of Jehoshaphat with Ahaziah (II Chron. xx. 37).
4. Son of Zichri, made captain of the Reubenites by King David (I Chron. xxvii. 16).
5. A priest who acted as trumpeter before the Ark when it was conveyed to Jerusalem by King David (I Chron. xv. 24).
6. One of the chief men sent by Ezra (Ezra viii. 16) to secure ministers for the Temple at Jerusalem.