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Shamir



King Solomon is said, in a Rabbinical legend, to have used the worm Shamir as an instrument for building the Temple. The legend is that Moses engraved the names of the twelve tribes on the stones of the breastplate by means of the blood of the worm Shamir, whose solvent power was so great that it could corrode the hardest substances. When Solomon was about to build the Temple of stones without the use of any metallic implement, he was desirous of obtaining this potent blood; but the knowledge of the source whence Moses had derived it had been lost by the lapse of time.

Solomon enclosed the chick of a bird, either an ostrich or a hoopoe, in a crystal vessel, and placed a sentinel to watch it. The parent bird, finding it impossible to break the vessel with her bill so as to gain access to the young one, flew to the desert, and returned with the miraculous worm, which, by means of its blood, soon penetrated the prison of glass, and liberated the chick. By a repetition of the process, the King of Israel at length acquired a sufficiency of the dissolving blood to enable him to work upon the stones of the Temple.

It is supposed that the legend is based on a corruption of the word Smiris, the Greek for emery, which was used by the antique engravers in their works and medallions, and that the name Shamir is merely the Hebrew form of the Greek word.

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