Two Brothers

Two Brothers Story

Illustrated By: Jacob Below

ONCE THERE WERE two brothers who inherited their father's land. The two brothers divided the land in half and each one farmed his own section.


The Two Brothers Story


Over time, the older brother married and had six children, while the younger brother never married.

One night, the younger brother lay awake. "It's not fair that each of us has half the land to farm," he thought. "My brother has six children to feed and I have none. He should have more grain than I do."

That night the younger brother went to his barn and gathered a large bundle of wheat.  He climbed the hill that separated the two farms and over to his brother's farm. Leaving the wheat in his brother's barn, the younger brother returned home, feeling pleased with himself.


The Two Brothers Story


Earlier that very same night, the older brother was also lying awake. "It's not fair that each of us has half the land to farm," he thought. "In my old age my wife and I will have our grown children to take care of us, not to mention grandchildren, while my brother will probably have none. He should at least sell more grain from the fields now so he can provide for himself with dignity in his old age."

So that night, too, he secretly gathered a large bundle of wheat and climbed the hill.  He left the grain in his brother's barn and returned home, feeling pleased with himself.

The next morning, when the younger brother went into his barn he was surprised to see the amount of grain was unchanged. "I must not have taken as much wheat as I thought," he said, bemused. "Tonight I'll be sure to take more."


The Two Brothers Story


That very same moment, his older brother was also standing in his barn, musing much the same thoughts.

After night fell, each brother gathered a greater amount of wheat from his barn and in the dark, secretly delivered it to his brother's barn. The next morning, the brothers were again puzzled and perplexed.


"How can I be mistaken?" each one scratched his head.


"There's the same amount of grain here as there was before I cleared the pile for my brother. This is impossible! Tonight I'll make no mistake - I'll take the pile down to the very floor. That way I'll be sure the grain gets delivered to my brother."

The third night, more determined than ever, each brother gathered a large pile of wheat from his barn, loaded it onto a cart, and slowly pulled his haul through the fields and up the hill to his brother's barn. At the top of the hill, under the shadow of a moon, each brother noticed a figure in the distance.  Who could it be?

When the two brothers recognized the form of the other brother and the load he was pulling behind, they realized what had happened.


The Two Brothers Story


Without a word, they dropped the ropes to their carts, and embraced.


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Retold by Elaine L. Lindy. ©2006. All rights reserved.


This story is passed down in both Hebrew & Arab versions. In the Hebrew version, King Solomon is believed to have built the first temple on the ground where the two brothers met and embraced.  In the Arab version, at the end of the story: "In the morning, each brother was amazed to find the heaps still equal, till Allah sent a prophet who informed them that their unselfish love was pleasing to the Almighty."

Among Hebrews, this story is often cited as a Talmudic legend taken from the Midrash, yet there is no mention of the tale in either the Talmud or the Midrash. According to the research of the late Professor Alexander Schieber of Budapest, the first time the story "Two Brothers" appeared in print was in 1851 by a French historian who claimed to have heard it from an Arab peasant. Some Jewish scholars believe the story is indeed of Talmudic origin, though for some reason it was not recorded, and that Arabs had preserved it over the centuries. It's equally plausible the story was originally Arabic (the story reflects the traditional reverence which Islam holds for the site of the Temple and its builder, King Solomon) and that it spread to the Hebrews, who then subsequently modified the tale. It's not uncommon in ancient times for legends and fables to interweave and to overlap from one culture to another.