Honi ha-M'agel (חוני המעגל Khoni, Choni, or Ḥoni, HaMa'agel), (lit. Honi the Circle-drawer) (1st century BC) was a Jewish scholar prior to the age of the tannaim, the scholars from whose teachings the Mishnah was derived.
During the 1st century BC, a variety of religious movements and splinter groups developed amongst the Jews in Judea. A number of individuals claimed to be miracle workers in the tradition of Elijah and Elisha, the ancient Jewish prophets. The Talmud provides some examples of such Jewish miracle workers, one of whom is Honi ha-Ma'agel, who was famous for his ability to successfully pray for rain.
Circle drawing incident
It is reported that, on one occasion, when God did not send rain well into the winter (in the geographic regions of Israel, it rains mainly in the winter), Honi drew a circle in the dust, stood inside it, and informed God that he would not move until it rained. When it began to drizzle, Honi told God that he was not satisfied and expected more rain; it then began to pour. He explained that he wanted a calm rain, at which point the rain calmed to a normal rain.
He was almost put into cherem (excommunication) for the above incident in which he showed "dishonor" to God. However, Shimon ben Shetach, the brother of Queen Shlomtzion, excused him, saying that he was Honi and had a special relationship with God.
According to Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews, Honi met his end in the context of conflict between the Hasmonean brothers Hyrcanus II, backed by the Pharisees and advised by Antipater the Idumaean, and Aristobulus II, backed by the Sadducees. Around 63 BC, Honi was captured by the followers of Hyrcanus besieging Jerusalem and was asked to pray for the demise of their opponents. Honi, however, prayed: "Lord of the universe, as the besieged and the besiegers both belong to Your people, I beseech You not to answer the evil prayers of either." After this, the followers of Hyrcanus stoned him to death.
In Rabbinic legend, however, he is said to have fallen into a long sleep, to wake up after 70 years. When nobody would believe that he was indeed Honi the Circle-drawer, he prayed to God and God took him from this world. The Maharsha explains the discrepancy between the Talmud and Josephus by stating that Honi was "presumed" killed by Hyrcanus II's men, but in reality was put into a deep sleep or coma for 70 years.
Honi's grave is found near the town of Hatzor HaGlilit in northern Israel.