The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia


The legend that Solomon possessed a seal ring on which the name of God was engraved and by means of which he controlled the demons is related at length in Giṭ. 68a, b. This legend is especially developed by Arabic writers, who declare that the ring, on which was engraved "the Most Great Name of God," and which was given to Solomon from heaven, was partly brass and partly iron. With the brass part of the ring Solomon signed his written commands to the good genii, and with the iron part he signed his commands to the evil genii, or devils. The Arabic writers declare also that Solomon received four jewels from four different angels, and that he set them in one ring, so that he could control the four elements. The legend that Asmodeus once obtained possession of the ring and threw it into the sea, and that Solomon was thus deprived of his power until he discovered the ring inside a fish (Jellinek, "B. H." ii. 86-87), also has an Arabic source (comp. D'Herbelot, "Bibliothèque Orientale," s.v. "Soliman ben Daoud"; Fabricius, "Codex Pseudepigraphicus," i. 1054; and see Solomon in Arabic Literature). The legend of a magic ring by means of which the possessor could exorcise demons was current in the first century, as is shown by Josephus' statement ("Ant." viii. 2, § 5) that one Eleazar exorcised demons in the presence of Vespasian by means of a ring, using incantations composed by Solomon Fabricius (l.c.) thinks that the legend of the ring of Solomon thrown into the sea and found afterward inside a fish is derived from the story of the ring of Polycrates, a story which is related by Herodotus (iii. 41 et seq.), Strabo (xiv. 638), and others, and which was the basis of Schiller's poem "Der Ring des Polykrates."

The Arabs afterward gave the name of "Solomon's seal" to the six-pointed star-like figure (see Magen, Dawid) engraved on the bottom of their drinking-cups. It is related in the "Arabian Nights" (ch. xx.) that Sindbad, in his seventh voyage, presented Harun al-Rashid cup on which the "table of Solomon" was represented; and Lane thinks that this was the figure of "Solomon's seal" (note 93 to ch. xx. of his translation of the "Arabian Nights"). In Western legends, however, it is the pentacle, or "druid's foot," that represents the seal. This figure, called by Bishop Kennet the "pentangle" of Solomon, was supposed to have the power of driving away demons. Mephistopheles says to Faust that he is prevented from entering the house by the druid's foot ("Drudenfuss"), or pentagram, which guards the threshold ("Faust," in Otto Devrient's edition, part i., scene 6). The work entitled "Claviculæ Salomonis" contains treatises on all kinds of pentacles. The tradition of Solomon's seal was the basis of Büschenthal's tragedy "Der Siegelring Salomonis," specimens of which are given in "Bikkure ha-'Ittim," v. 3 et seq. (German part). A work regarding a magic signet-ring is ascribed to Solomon (see Solomon, Apocryphal Works of). See also Asmodeus; Solomon in Rabbinical Literature.

  • Lane, Arabian Nights' Entertainments, Introduction, note 21;
  • Lebahn's edition of Goethe's Faust, pp. 475-476, London, 1853.
J. M. Sel.
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