The Book of Jasher
In those days there was in the land of Shinar a wise man who had understanding in all
wisdom, and of a beautiful appearance, but he was poor and indigent; his name was Rikayon
and he was hard set to support himself.
And he resolved to go to Egypt, to Oswiris the son of Anom king of Egypt, to show the king
his wisdom; for perhaps he might find grace in his sight, to raise him up and give him
maintenance; and Rikayon did so.
And when Rikayon came to Egypt he asked the inhabitants of Egypt concerning the king,
and the inhabitants of Egypt told him the custom of the king of Egypt, for it was then the
custom of the king of Egypt that he went from his royal palace and was seen abroad only one
day in the year, and after that the king would return to his palace to remain there.
And on the day when the king went forth he passed judgment in the land, and every one
having a suit came before the king that day to obtain his request.
And when Rikayon heard of the custom in Egypt and that he could not come into the
presence of the king, he grieved greatly and was very sorrowful.
And in the evening Rikayon went out and found a house in ruins, formerly a bake house in
Egypt, and he abode there all night in bitterness of soul and pinched with hunger, and sleep was removed from his
And Rikayon considered within himself what he should do in the town until the king made
his appearance, and how he might maintain himself there.
And he rose in the morning and walked about, and met in his way those who sold
vegetables and various sorts of seed with which they supplied the inhabitants.
And Rikayon wished to do the same in order to get a maintenance in the city, but he was
unacquainted with the custom of the people, and he was like a blind man among them.
And he went and obtained vegetables to sell them for his support, and the rabble
assembled about him and ridiculed him, and took his vegetables from him and left him
And he rose up from there in bitterness of soul, and went sighing to the bake house in
which he had remained all the night before, and he slept there the second night.
And on that night again he reasoned within himself how he could save himself from
starvation, and he devised a scheme how to act.
And he rose up in the morning and acted ingeniously, and went and hired thirty strong
men of the rabble, carrying their war instruments in their hands, and he led them to the top of
the Egyptian sepulchre, and he placed them there.
And he commanded them, saying, Thus saith the king, Strengthen yourselves and be
valiant men, and let no man be buried here until two hundred pieces of silver be given, and
then he may be buried; and those men did according to the order of Rikayon to the people of
Egypt the whole of that year.
And in eight months time Rikayon and his men gathered great riches of silver and gold,
and Rikayon took a great quantity of horses and other animals, and he hired more men, and
he gave them horses and they remained with him.
And when the year came round, at the time the king went forth into the town, all the
inhabitants of Egypt assembled together to speak to him concerning the work of Rikayon and
And the king went forth on the appointed day, and all the Egyptians came before him and
cried unto him, saying,
May the king live forever. What is this thing thou doest in the town to thy servants, not to
suffer a dead body to be buried until so much silver and gold be given? Was there ever the
like unto this done in the whole earth, from the days of former kings yea even from the days of
Adam, unto this day, that the dead should not be buried only for a set price?
We know it to be the custom of kings to take a yearly tax from the living, but thou dost not
only do this, but from the dead also thou exactest a tax day by day.
Now, O king, we can no more bear this, for the whole city is ruined on this account, and
dost thou not know it?
And when the king heard all that they had spoken he was very wroth, and his anger
burned within him at this affair, for he had known nothing of it.
And the king said, Who and where is he that dares to do this wicked thing in my land
without my command? Surely you will tell me.
And they told him all the works of Rikayon and his men, and the king's anger was aroused,
and he ordered Rikayon and his men to be brought before him.
And Rikayon took about a thousand children, sons and daughters, and clothed them in silk
and embroidery, and he set them upon horses and sent them to the king by means of his
men, and he also took a great quantity of silver and gold and precious stones, and a strong
and beautiful horse, as a present for the king, with which he came before the king and bowed
down to the earth before him; and the king, his servants and all the inhabitants of Egypt
wondered at the work of Rikayon, and they saw his riches and the present that he had
brought to the king.
And it greatly pleased the king and he wondered at it; and when Rikayon sat before him
the king asked him concerning all his works, and Rikayon spoke all his words wisely before
the king, his servants and all the inhabitants of Egypt.
And when the king heard the words of Rikayon and his wisdom, Rikayon found grace in
his sight, and he met with grace and kindness from all the servants of the king and from all
the inhabitants of Egypt, on account of his wisdom and excellent speeches, and from that
time they loved him exceedingly.
And the king answered and said to Rikayon, Thy name shall no more be called Rikayon
but Pharaoh shall be thy name, since thou didst exact a tax from the dead; and he called his
And the king and his subjects loved Rikayon for his wisdom, and they consulted with all
the inhabitants of Egypt to make him prefect under the king.
And all the inhabitants of Egypt and its wise men did so, and it was made a law in Egypt.
And they made Rikayon Pharaoh prefect under Oswiris king of Egypt, and Rikayon
Pharaoh governed over Egypt, daily administering justice to the whole city, but Oswiris the
king would judge the people of the land one day in the year, when he went out to make his
And Rikayon Pharaoh cunningly usurped the government of Egypt, and he exacted a tax
from all the inhabitants of Egypt.
And all the inhabitants of Egypt greatly loved Rikayon Pharaoh, and they made a decree to
call every king that should reign over them and their seed in Egypt, Pharaoh.
Therefore all the kings that reigned in Egypt from that time forward were called Pharaoh
unto this day.