כ״ט בתשרי ה׳תשע״ח (October 19, 2017)

Sanhedrin 95a-b: The Attacking Army

On yesterday’s daf we learned that God had intended to make the war between Sanḥeriv and Ḥizkiyahu into Milḥemet Gog U’Magog – the war of the End of Days – and chose not to do so because of King Ḥizkiyahu’s failure to recognize God’s role in the miraculous victory with a song of praise and thanksgiving. The Gemara on today’s daf offers further Rabbinic traditions regarding the war with Sanḥeriv.

Rav Yehuda quoted Rav as teaching: The wicked Sanḥeriv advanced against them with a force consisting of forty-five thousand princes, each enthroned in a golden chariot and accompanied by his ladies and harlots, eighty thousand warriors in coat-of-mail, and sixty thousand swordsmen of the front line, the rest cavalrymen. A similar host attacked Abraham (see Bereshit ch. 14) and a similar force will accompany Gog and Magog. A baraita taught: The length of his army was four hundred parasangs, the horses standing side by side formed a line forty parasangs wide, and the grand total of his army two million, six hundred thousand less one. Abaye asked whether the intent of “less one” was less one ribbo [ten thousand], one thousand, one hundred, or one? The Gemara does not reach a conclusion regarding this question.

Abaye’s question appears to be without meaning, for what difference does it make how many soldiers were in Sanḥeriv’s army when he attacked Jerusalem? In his Melo HaRo’im, Rav Ya’akov Tzvi Yalish suggests that it is important so that if someone vows to give an amount of money to charity that is equivalent to the number of soldier’s in Sanḥeriv’s army he will know how much he owes. The Ḥida wrote similarly, that if such an expression appears in a contract of legal document, we will know what it means.

Rav’s tradition had Sanḥeriv’s army “eighty thousand warriors in coat-of-mail.” The coat-of-mail consisted of metal scales that were sewn together so that they would protect the soldier while giving him some level of movement and flexibility.

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