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Five Biblical Portraits

Five Biblical Portraits

by Elie Wiesel
Five Biblical Portraits

Five Biblical Portraits

by Elie Wiesel


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Five Biblical Portraits is a sequel to Elie Weisel's Messengers of God; in this work Wiesel enhances his well-known skill in bringing ancient religious figures to literary life with his stories of: Joshua, Elijah, Saul, Jeremiah, and Jonah.

Wiesel illuminates Joshua, Saul, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Jonah through sensitive readings of the scriptures as well as the Talmudic and Hasidic sources. As a sequel to his book, Messengers of God, this work brings ancient religious figures to literary life and emphasizes the personal struggles within the awesome missions of these men.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780268009625
Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
Publication date: 02/28/1990
Edition description: 1
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 1,068,029
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Elie Wiesel (1928–2016) was Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University since 1976. Wiesel is the author of more than forty books, several of which have won international awards. His work on behalf of human rights and world peace has earned Wiesel the Nobel Peace Prize (1986), the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the United States Congressional Gold Medal, among many other honors.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

September 30, 1928

Place of Birth:

Sighet, Romania


La Sorbonne

Read an Excerpt

This is the story of a journey filled with melancholy, solitude, and anguish. It is a heartbreaking story dealing with all the elements and themes that make up the fabric of life and literature: prophecy and madness, friendship and betrayal, jealousy and acceptance, military adventure and secular ambition, poetry and thirst for power; it even deals with political science and the occult.

There is drama in it, suspense, and action. On many levels, for many reasons.

It is a story filled with awe and passion, inviting compassion; its characters, in constant conflict, are unable to cut themselves away from misfortune—a misfortune that pursues them and which, in a way, they are pursuing with an intensity that ultimately can only crush them.

The isolation of a king, the first and last of a dynasty; the fall of a kingdom, the birth of another; the deterioration of a dream and a friendship: one leaves this tale overwhelmed by grief.

Three men walk quietly in the night: the king and his bodyguards, silent shadows moving breathlessly, so as not to make a sound. The enemy, powerful and bent on vengeance, has established camp nearby, at Shunem. To reach En-dor, a hamlet in the foothills of Harei-Ephraim, they must follow a narrow path bordering the Philistine encampment. The smallest carelessness, the simplest error, could be fatal.

After several hours, the three reach their destination. En-dor, huddled in darkness, is asleep, its houses blind; the village is motionless, lifeless.

Still, the three visitors manage to find their way around. Perhaps the king’s companions are familiar with the place. One of them knows the person the king wishes to meet: the local sorceress, one of the last witches to remain alive, for the king has massacred most of them.

The king wants her to put him in touch with a dead man. She asks: “What man?” Still incognito, the king answers: “Shmuel—Samuel.” She works her magic and, sure enough, here is Samuel, back from the other side, from the world of the dead.

Only now does the witch recognize the king. She is frightened, but he reassures her. Nothing will happen to her; she is safe. But he, the king, is far from being reassured. How could he be? Samuel, the prophet, speaks to him in anger: “Why did you disturb my peace?” “I need you,” says the unhappy king. “I need help. I am going to war tomorrow without knowing whether God is with me or against me. I am afraid. Help me; you can, you alone can help. Tell me God’s will—only you can do that, since God refuses to speak to me or even notice my presence. I don’t exist for Him. You, the prophet and defender of God’s first king, you must come to my aid.”

But Samuel, from beyond death, refuses, and continues speaking to him angrily: “You want my help? Now? First you deny God’s word, ridicule God’s command—and now you wish to be helped? You are lost, and it is time you realized it. Your enemies will defeat you in battle; you will perish, and worse: your kingdom will perish with you. Another man will follow you, succeed you as King of Israel—and his House will not be destroyed, ever.”

The prophet withdraws, leaving King Saul crushed by despair, unable to speak, to cry, to move, to protest, to scream, to throw his pain and anguish into the face of history, into the night which, outside, grows more and more menacing. He wants to return to his headquarters, to his home. But he feels weak. The witch feels sorry for him and offers him a meal. “Eat,” she says, “it will do you good.” Indifferent, proud, he rejects her pity.

We now leave the occult, and the scene becomes realistic, almost grotesque: his two companions join the sorceress in insisting that he eat—until he gives in. And there Saul, once a mighty and glorious king, partakes of his last meal. Then he leaves, to return to his camp, where his sons, lieutenants, and soldiers are awaiting him. He walks slowly, slower than before, lost in thought: he is living his last night and is aware of it. He will not be able to count on anyone for his ultimate battle. It will all be over for him and his allies—tomorrow. He knows it, and goes towards death alone. The king, anointed by God, is alone like God—and like Him, silent.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Ariel Burger

1. Joshua

2. Elijah

3. Saul

4. Jeremiah

5. Jonah


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