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ASMODEUS, or Ashmedai, an evil demon who appears in later Jewish tradition as “king of demons.” He is sometimes identified with Beelzebub or Apollyon (Rev. ix. 11). In the Talmud he plays a great part in the legends concerning Solomon. In the apocryphal book of Tobit (iii. 8) occurs the well-known story of his love for Sara, the beautiful daughter of Raguel, whose seven husbands were slain in succession by him on their respective bridal nights. At last Tobias, by burning the heart and liver of a fish, drove off the demon, who fled to Egypt. From the part played by Asmodeus in this story, he has been often familiarly called the genius of matrimonial unhappiness or jealousy, and as such may be compared with Lilith. Le Sage makes him the principal character in his novel Le Diable boiteux. Both the word and the conception seem to have been derived originally from the Persian. The name has been taken to mean “covetous.” It is in any case no doubt identical with the demon Aeshma of the Zend-Avesta and the Pahlavi texts. But the meaning is not certain. It is generally agreed that the second part of the name Asmodeus is the same as the Zend daēwa, dēw, “demon.” The first part may be equivalent to Aeshma, the impersonation of anger. But W. Baudissin (Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie) prefers to derive it from ish, to drive, set in motion; whence ish-mīn, driving, impetuous.

The legend of Asmodeus is given fully in the Jewish Encyclopaedia, s.v. See also the articles in the Encyclopaedia Biblica, Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, and Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie.


Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

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