Thirteen eyes or A wonder of God



This is a true narrative from the time and the reign of the great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm (1640-1688). How God publicly brought the innocence of Henry Lichtenberg (falsely accused of murder) to the light, and delivered him from death


During the reign of the great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm, 1640-1688, and in the little town of Bernau lived a respectable widow by the name of Lichtenberg, with her son, Henry, in their neat and friendly home. They were quiet and industrious people. This is then about 300 years ago. How fast does time go!

When Henry was only a child of three years old, his father died. Since that time the mother worked hard and earned enough so that she could provide for the needs of herself and her son, whom she tried to bring up in the fear and the admonition of the Lord. Henry was attached to his mother with a hearty love. It was his greatest joy when he could sit with her and listen to the wonderful narratives which she told him from the Bible or from her daily life.

Lady Martha Lichtenberg and her son chatted often about the future, and how delightful it would be if, in later age, she could come and live in the same home with him, and he would then be able to help and care for her in her old age.

At last the lad had grown up to be a stout and strong young man, and the time had come for him to choose a certain trade. Henry was very fond of becoming a soldier, so that he might fight for his Elector and beloved fatherland. Nothing seemed to be so grand and glorious to him as the military profession. In his dreams he found wonders therein. The mother was affrighted when Henry told her about his plans and expectations. She tried very hard with entreaties and admonitions to discourage him of such a plan. When she noticed that Henry remained firm in his choice, with his whole heart, she would no longer grieve him with her opposition, and gave her consent.

He went to Lieutenant Von Kalkreuth, who was at that time in Bernau and its vicinity to find new recruits for his regiment. The strong, well-built young man, in whose eyes courage and faithfulness could be read, satisfied the lieutenant so exceedingly that he accepted him as his soldier without further examination, and gave him a nice sum of earnest-money. The biggest part of this money Henry gave to his mother and he promised that he would henceforth faithfully support her from his pay. He then said a hearty farewell to her and left for his regiment. It was a tender and painful farewell. Mother and son embraced each other again and again, and the tears flowed in an abundant measure.

Lady Lichtenberg admonished her son, Henry, to have God before him throughout his whole life and in no wise consent to sin, and with her motherly blessing she let him go.

After this farewell, some years had passed away. The young soldier had distinguished himself valiantly in many battles since that time, especially at Fehrbellin, June 18, 1675. At that place he even was so fortunate as to make a Swedish field officer his prisoner. Henry was publicly praised by his superior for his heroism, and he received a great sum of money as a present.

Not long after this the great Elector admitted Henry Lichtenberg into his personal bodyguard. This bodyguard had to accompany him in time of war and of peace, when hunting and on his travels. Only the biggest and most valiant men were chosen for the bodyguard, and therefore it was already an honor when a soldier was promoted to this bodyguard. And besides this, these life guards had an easier service to perform and moreover they received a larger salary. They could also live in the prospect of being employed after some time in one of the castles of the Elector, or as a forester or a gamekeeper.

Henry and his mother rejoiced greatly about this promotion, and the son was now able to support his mother more generously than before. The realization of their expectations and wishes to live together without anxious care in the future, had in this way approached much nearer to them.

In the meantime, Henry had grown up to be a sturdy man; his full beard and strong, well built figure gave him a manly and martial appearance. However, if you looked into his eyes you could at once notice the devotion, the kindness and the faithfulness which yet dwelled in his heart.

On a certain evening, Henry left the watch at the palace. He carried his sword under his arm to bring it to master Reinhard, who was at that time one of the most famous armourers in the city of Berlin. He had to repair a small defect on the sword.

Master Reinhard found great delight in the sincere young man, and in all that he would say, yea, in his whole person. He began to love him and invited him to visit his home whenever he had a chance.

Master Reinhard had a daughter, Marie, whom Henry wished to marry, and as Marie felt favorably disposed towards him, she was greatly inclined to satisfy his desire. The spry master, who had loved our Henry already for a long time as his own son, gave his consent and blessing to this union, with gladness.

Lady Lichtenberg, to whom the son had communicated his happiness, soon came to Berlin that she might learn to know the girl who would soon be her daughter-in-law. The widow and Marie soon became one in heart and soul. Lady Lichtenberg could hardly wait for the time in which her beloved children would be united by the band of holy marriage. She would then live in with them and help as much as she could in the housekeeping, and with motherly love enjoy their happiness.

It was a fine and fortunate time which had commenced for Henry. All his companions and friends shared heartily in his joy, because they all loved him on account of his faithful and honest character. He was obliged to tell the great Elector all about his engagement, and he also was highly pleased with it, the more, because he knew the father and daughter. He promised heartily that he would think about the promotion of the young man now more than ever that it might soon be effected.

Although many rejoiced with Henry, there was, however, one person who secretly was very angry about Henry’s success. It was the electoral bodyguard, Rudolf, a valiant and courageous man, to which all could testify. In the war he had excelled very often, and because he was also neat and exact in his service he had gained great favor in the eyes of the Elector, and hoped therefore by right to have a promotion very soon. His companions, however, did not care for ‘Black Rudolf,’ as he was generally called because of his appearance.

Rudolf could not bear the cheerful and good natured Henry, who shared greatly in the favor of the Elector, and who was generally loved by his companions. He had showed that more than once. But soon the resentment grew worse and hatred filled his heart towards Henry. What was the cause of this? A position as forester opened up in the adjacent Grunewald. Rudolf had set his heart upon this desirous position for a long time already. But how sorely disappointed was he upon learning that the Elector gave this position to Henry, so that he might be able to marry his bride even sooner than planned. Rudolf’s mind was now inflamed with terrific envy and anger. His hope was frustrated, and he hated his competitor greatly, deciding to take revenge on him in a painful way.

Rudolf first tried very hard to turn Marie against Henry, and to cause her to have a dislike for him. Through his position he had an easy entrance into the home of the armourer, who regarded Rudolf the valiant warrior with great respect. He now carefully used many means that could lead to his purpose. However, he soon noticed with increasing anger and indignation that his plan did not prosper, and having no success the ‘Black Rudolf’ finally had to give up his hope of executing revenge in such a way. He naturally now gave even more deliberation to the manner in which he could revenge himself upon these two persons, whom he hated so intensely, and to destroy their happiness and blessedness.

Henry and Marie were not suspicious of all these things, and could not see the dark clouds that were gathering on the horizon of their happiness and life. The day of their marriage approached. On a certain afternoon, the bridegroom and his bride had gone out to buy some things for their future home. Shortly before this, Henry had spent some time shooting crows before the gate, which was done quite frequently in those times by the guards of the Elector. He now took his bride back to the home of her father. Because Henry had to do an errand yet, he only took her as far as the corner of the last street, and there he parted from her. It had become dark, but it was not yet so late that it would be difficult for the young daughter to walk the rest of the way alone to her home. The young people bid each other a very fond farewell, and they each went their own way.

All of a sudden a shot pierced the air. Looking around and very much frightened, Henry saw that Marie had been struck and had succumbed on the road. He quickly ran up to her, but when he tried to raise her, he saw that she was already dead. The murderous bullet was aimed correctly and had pierced the heart of the poor girl.

Henry was numb with fright, shock and sorrow when he held his beloved bride, pale and dead, in his arms, who only a few moments ago had bid him farewell, healthy and happy. At the call of ‘Murder! Murder!’ the residents of the town came running and soon surrounded the young man.

The soldiers of that time did not have a very good reputation amongst the people. They had not forgotten the horrors of the thirty-year war, and many that became new recruits in those days were leading a rough and licentious life.

The citizens that had come together, alarmed at the rifle shot, did not doubt for a moment that Henry, who yet had his gun with him, was the murderer of the young girl. Angrily they reproached the unfortunate man with scornful words and curses. Henry, who was wholly stupified in his deep grief, and without any will, suffered the merciless taunts. While men snatched him away from the place where the calamity had taken place, shouts were being heard from an adjacent street that they had caught the murderer over there and taken him into custody. It was ‘Black Rudolf,’ who at the same time was led before the court of justice.

Both prisoners were brought to the corpse, which had also been brought to the courthouse. Rudolf stared at the dead body with a cold and sullen look, but Henry sank to the floor with heart-rending cries and covered the hand of his beloved bride with tears and a kiss. After this, Henry and Rudolf were taken to the prison, and the examination commenced. Not one of them, however, would confess the horrible deed.

Henry told in truth exactly what had happened and his whole appearance, besides his conduct, made a deep impression upon his judges. Rudolf, on the other hand, came before the judges with a dreary texture of lies which he had in the meantime cunningly devised. He told the judges that he had walked through the street in which the murder took place, and that he had seen his companion in some conversation with his girl. He had further noticed that Henry was excited and angry, and as it seemed was heaping severe reproofs upon her, perhaps out of jealousy. Because it was a case that did not concern him, he had quietly continued on his way, until he suddenly heard the shot. He claimed that no one else but Henry, and that surely out of jealousy, had committed this terrible deed. He was willing to confirm his declaration with an oath.

Both prisoners persevered in their confession, notwithstanding all the challenging questions of their judges. In those days it was yet the custom to make use of the customary torture in order to find out the truth. But although the men were both painfully tortured, they both however remained constant in their confession that they had not committed the murder. The judges were in a very painful confusion. One of the prisoners certainly had to be the criminal. They both were seized very near the place where the murder had occurred. They both had a gun, which, as the examination proved, shortly before had been fired. But both alike stubbornly declared their innocency.

Master Reinhard, who also was called to testify before the judges, spoke as strongly as he could under the sad circumstances in behalf of the innocency of Henry; but that it was possible, as Rudolf asserted, that he might have quarreled with his bride, and in anger or out of jealousy had committed the crime.

The judges, even notwithstanding all their efforts, were not able to uncover the truth. For this reason the case was finally brought before the Elector. Friedrich Wilhelm, who was not only very meek but also righteous, had the two accused prisoners examined once more in his presence. Since he also could not come to a definite conviction by this examination, he ordered that the case should be decided by an ordeal of God.

Such an ordeal was at that time yet in use. The God-fearing forefathers in their childlike humbleness and prayers, expected that in dark cases as this also was, God Himself through a wonder would bring the guilt or the innocency of the accused to light. In this present case the Elector decided that Henry and Rudolf would cast with the die (a small cube or block the sides of which are marked with small dots or eyes). The highest throw would indicate the innocent, the lowest on the other hand, the murderer. The following Sunday was appointed for this solemn act. During the morning service, prayers would be sent up to God and right after this service the prisoners were to cast the dice.

The evening before this important day we find Henry sitting in his prison cell filled with sorrow. The happiness of his life had been totally wiped out with one stroke. But there was something that oppressed him almost more than that. It was the heavy suspicion that rested  upon him and the condition of his poor mother who was deeply and painfully shaken and alarmed. How willingly would he have quieted and comforted her!

While thinking in love about her, the door-locks of his prison cell creaked. The door was opened and his beloved mother entered weeping and lamenting. Henry fell into her arms and wept bitterly at her bosom. It did him inexpressible good to rest at least once more at the faithful motherly heart. Lady Lichtenberg, who knew her son too well to entertain the slightest doubt of his innocency in her heart, comforted him as much as possible. And when Henry at last told her: ‘Mother, I look forward to tomorrow with much comfort and courage in my mind; I know God shall help me!’ she could raise herself up with a glad hope. She entered once more into prayer with him, as she had done every evening in the days of his childhood. After this she left him, very calm and resigned, so that he might yet enjoy a little sleep and receive the necessary strength for the difficult way that was before him.

The morning of the decisive Sunday had arrived. Henry arose courageously and calm: Rudolf on the other hand was haughty and angry. Before the divine service, the bells rang and the two prisoners were taken out of their cells so that they could attend the church service, at which the Elector would be present also. The Court chaplain, Bartholomeus Slotsch, preached a very solemn and touching sermon at that occasion. The hearers were deeply moved, almost without one exception. A humble but solemn calm prevailed in Henry’s heart, and was reflected on his face. One could observe, however, that he looked pale and bowed down with great concerns. Many an eye rested with deep emotion on the unfortunate young man. Many of Berlin’s citizens, who saw him that day, believed in his innocency and hoped that God would bring it to light.

The church service was ended. The great Elector left the church and walked across the square to the Domkerk. His bodyguards followed him, and also led both the prisoners to a drum which was placed before the Elector. On the drum there lay two new dice. The dignified Court-chaplain took his place near them. At the command of the Elector, the people who had gathered around first sang a spiritual hymn. Then the preacher addressed the two prisoners with a short but very solemn speech. Finally he uncovered his head, and said: ‘Now in the Name of God! The will of the Lord be done!’.

He stepped backwards, and Henry and Rudolf were now placed before the Elector. They bowed before him and begged him to appoint who of them should throw first. The Prince ordered that Rudolf, who had accused his companion first, should make the first throw. The two dice were placed in a cup; Rudolf, grasping the cup very haughtily, shook it with a firm hand. All eyes rested on him in this fatal moment. Not a sound, hardly a breath was heard on the large square amongst the multitude. Rudolf cast the dice, and ….

‘Twelve eyes! The highest throw!’ called the electoral herald with a loud voice, announcing the decision.

A ridiculing laugh was heard from Rudolf, while far away in the distance a scream of a woman was heard as she sank to the ground. It was poor lady Lichtenberg, Henry’s mother. Many looked with hearty compassion towards the poor Henry, whom they now already considered condemned. He now also stepped towards the drum upon which the stones laid. The Elector also could not look without deep emotion upon the young man whom he loved and in whose guilt he could hardly believe.

Henry kneeled upon the ground, while the ‘Black Rudolf’ looked at him with contempt and a scornful laugh. The unfortunate Henry did not concern himself about this, however. He prayed loudly, with all the energy on his pious mind: ‘Lord God! Almighty God, help! Thou canst bring the truth to light, if it is Thy holy will, and if it is not possible that this cup shall pass from me, help me to drink it! Thy will be done. But be not silent O strong and faithful God!’ Lord, I hope upon Thee! Let me not be put to shame!’

Henry then took the cup, shook it, and threw the stones on the drum ….

‘Thirteen eyes!’ called the herald with a loud voice.

How could this be possible, as each stone could only show six eyes at the most? The people witnessing this event could not believe it. But those that stood the closest to the drum had already noticed what had taken place. They began to shout: ‘A wonder of God! A wonder of God has happened! God has brought innocence to the light!’

One of the dice had split in two. Next to the two sixes laid the one, which the part that had broken off showed.

‘A wonder of God!’ shouted and jubilated the gathered multitude louder and louder. ‘Yes, a wonder of God!’ now also called the pious Elector in great emotion, while he ordered that both the prisoners should be brought before him.

‘The Almighty God Himself has given the verdict in this case,’ he said to both the accused men. ‘You are innocent, my son’ said the Elector to Henry, who was deeply touched and did not yet think in that moment to thank the wonder doing God, Who had so graciously answered and saved him. ‘Yea! thank the Lord, for He has brought your innocence to the light,’ the Elector proceeded.

Then he turned himself to Rudolf and said to him: ‘You have committed the murder. Do not deny it any longer, lest your punishment be made the heavier, and you may at least escape yet the judgment of God before it is too late’.

The pride of the murderer was now broken. The hand of God had revealed itself so clearly, that he could no longer harden himself. With a trembling voice he confessed: ‘Yes, God is just!’ I am the murderer, and I beg for my punishment’.

At a wink of the Elector, the criminal was returned to his prison cell. The guards who brought him back to the cell could hardly protect him on the way against the fury of the embittered people.

When Rudolf had returned to his cell, he also made an openhearted confession before his Judges of his evil deed. He requested that a minister be sent to him, who as a pastor could pray for him. Naturally they satisfied this request. The wretched young man showed much sorrow for his cruel deed and for his extreme blindness. He received his just punishment upon this earth for the terrible murder. We hope, however, that he as a sorrowful and penitent sinner also found mercy at the Judgment seat of God before he died.

When Rudolf had been taken away by the guards, Henry remained in the presence of his Prince. At the same moment, his old mother jubilantly pressed through the multitude and cast herself with tears of joy in the arms of her son. Both could not speak a word, but wept in brokenness and thankfulness of heart. The great Elector looked upon them with loving sympathy.

The Elector now offered the innocent man, who by this wonder of God had been greatly honored and privileged, a higher position with the bodyguard, with the promise of an even greater salary. Henry, however, thankfully and humbly asked for his discharge; the happiness of his natural life was destroyed. He could no longer feel at home in Berlin, and therefore expressed his desire to return to his old mother and live with her in peace and quietness.

Friedrich Wilhelm, although unwillingly, satisfied the wish of the young man and discharged him with most kind and hearty words.

Henry now returned with his mother to the beloved and quiet home at Bernau, after they had visited Mr. Reinhard and comforted him. Henry also bade a sorrowful farewell at Marie’s grave, where his beloved bride slept the sleep of death.

Mother and son lived calmly and peacefully to the end of lady Lichtenberg’s life. The favor of the great Elector had given them a life free from outward concerns. After the death of his mother, Henry lived a solitary life in the little home, till the hour also arrived for him to leave this earth, to be united with dear ones eternally.

In the royal museum at Berlin, which contains so many costly and noteworthy things, you can yet find up to this day the broken die-stone which is displayed under the name of the ‘Death-die’. Many a visitor who sees it, does not know what remarkable history is attached to it. Only in the books which relate the past of the capitol of Prussia, can one read about it. And if one of young friends will ever see this die-stone, may he then remember this remarkable narrative, in which we find a confirmation of this very old Word of God: ‘God will save the humble person, and He will deliver the innocent,” Job 22.29,30.


Thy deeds, O Lord, will I relate

And on Thy wonders meditate;

Thy way, O God, is just and right,

And none is like to Thee in might.


Ps. 77



From: Van Zweden, J. The Wonderful Providence of Almighty God Seen in the Lives of Young and Old: Series No 10. Stickney, South Dakota: Netherlands Reformed Congregations in America, 1978. pages 97-106