Found Text | December 01, 1992
The Book of Jubilees is a Jewish work that presents itself as a divine revelation which God communicated to Moses through an angel on Mt. Sinai. It begins with a chapter that describes the setting and predicts Israel’s apostasy and final return to the way of the Lord. Once this section is complete, the book recounts biblical history from creation to the arrival of the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. The author often reproduces the scriptural text word for word, but he also transforms it at numerous points by means of omissions and especially additions, providing what he takes to be the proper interpretation of Genesis-Exodus and applying their teachings to the issues of his day.
Editor’s Note: The Keepers of the Scrolls
In 1947, in the Judaean desert east of Palestine, a Bedouin shepherd looking for a lost goat threw a rock into a cave and, to his surprise, heard the sound of pottery breaking. Inside the cave, he and his friends found several scrolls in ceramic pots. Suspecting that they might be able to sell them, they took them to Bethlehem to a part-time antiquities dealer named Khalil Iskander, called Kando. Kando bought them from the shepherds and sold them to Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Christian Church, for sixty-odd dinars, or about $250, which the archbishop describes as the entirety of his savings at the time.
These events were happening literally at the moment of the partition of Palestine by the United Nations and the subsequent outbreak of war. The archbishop was transferred to the United States, where for five years he unsuccessfully tried to sell the scrolls to an educational institution. Yale considered buying them but decided that their major efforts at the time should remain with the Boswell papers-this despite the fact that scholars had already established that the scrolls included the oldest extant biblical commentary (on Habakkuk), The Manual of Discipline that described the beliefs and rites of an order that had retired to the wilderness to wait for the Messianic age, and a complete Book of Isaiah dating from before the time of Christ, a thousand years older than any previously known Hebrew version. In a sense, the Dead Sea Scrolls were too amazing to believe. Their existence contradicted the long accepted notion that no manuscript written on any form of organic matter could survive the weather and other hazards of Palestine for anywhere near that length of time. After years of trying to place the scrolls with a responsible institution, Archbishop Samuel finally resorted to placing a want ad in the Wall Street Journal between ads for “Summer Homes Available” and “Established Manufacturer.”
By extraordinary chance the ad happened to be seen by one of the few men in the world who was both savvy enough to know the scrolls’ inestimable value and powerful enough to effect their purchase. Yigael Yadin was an archaeologist, the son of an archaeologist, and also one of Israel’s military heroes from the time of the partition. His father, Professor E. L. Sukenik of the Hebrew University, had also been approached to buy three other scrolls from the first cave. These manuscripts included The War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, the Thanksgiving Scroll, and a second, less well preserved copy of Isaiah. Schooled in the underground methods of the Haganah, General Yadin quickly bought the scrolls from Archbishop Samuel through an intermediary, donated them to the state of Israel, and later he helped create what became a permanent museum for them in Jerusalem, the Shrine of the Book.
The original scrolls turned out to be only a beginning. Bedouins continued to scour the caves on the western edge of the Dead Sea, and six years after the first discovery, they began to find more. The fourth cave was the most dramatic, because it included fragments of seven to eight hundred manuscripts, approximately eighty thousand fragments in all, many of them tiny pieces in the dirt, blackened and partly decomposed.
Within the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Dead Sea Scrolls are certainly the most important manuscript discovery of the twentieth century, and they are one of the most important such discoveries of all time, for they include manuscripts or fragments of every book of the Old Testament except Esther, far closer to the original time of composition than any scholar believed could possibly exist. Previously, for example, the earliest known Hebrew manuscript of Exodus had been more than a millennium and a half from its original date of composition, and no one could know how many changes had occurred through recopying and “standardization . ” Cave 4 contained a major fragment of Exodus-one of the oldest fragments in the library-that was copied circa 250 B.C.
Equally importantly, the scattered remains of this library offers information about Judaism during the turbulent era of the Second Temple, before the first Jewish Revolt (A.D. 64-70) against the Romans. This is the Judaic culture into which John the Baptist and Jesus were born, and from which the Christians or “Nazorenes” began to organize themselves into separate communities sometime in the first century A.D.
About these preliminary facts few Dead Sea scholars disagree, but beyond that is a welter of controversy, some of which revolves around the three separate questions of who wrote, copied, and maintained the various scrolls. The now established theory is that the library was kept, and most of its sectarian literature written, by a group of Essenes, an ascetic splinter group of Jews who disagreed with the dominant branches, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, strongly enough to repair to the desert and live alone. A number of scholars believe that the immediate ancestors of the Essenes were the ancient Hasidim, the warrior-saints who made up all or part of the Maccabean resistance against the Romans. It is from the Maccabean period that the Essenes seem to emerge (after 176 B.C.). The Dead Sea library was stored away, some think, about a hundred years later, in A.D. 68, when the Roman Legions approached the Dead Sea in Vespasian’s summer campaign to Jericho. In any case, the scroll keepers seem to have disappeared soon thereafter, possibly due to the constant antagonism by Rabbinical Judaism, or possibly because they were absorbed in early Palestinian Christianity.
Two major sources of information on the Essenes are the Jewish Greek historians, Josephus and Philo. They depict the Essenes as having lived throughout Palestine, with a single major settlement near the Dead Sea. Philo also describes a related group called the Therapeutae or “contemplative Essenes” who lived in Egypt. The term Essene may come from an Aramaic word meaning “the pious or holy ones” or it may be related to the term “Hasidim.”
The Manual of Discipline and other sectarian documents among the scrolls, however, raise some questions about the “Essene” identity. The Essenes described by Philo were monastic; however, the appendix to The Manual of Discipline delineates clear rules for marriage. Although postponing it until the candidate had reached the age .of twenty-which was unheard of in other forms of Judaism-nowhere does it imply avoidance of marriage. The Manual of Discipline sets down rules that were extraordinarily puritanical about sexual relations and marriage, but not monastic.
Another major feature of the Essenes pictured by the Greek historians is communism (resembling that of the primitive Christian Church in the Book of Acts). But while the Manual places certain restrictions on personal property-locking it in escrow during the last part of candidacy and forbidding business dealings outside the community-property is released after this brief interval and members of the congregation are then both free to undertake business within the community and subject to numerous precisely specified taxes and fines. These are only two of a number of basic questions about the keepers of the scrolls. If they were indeed the “Essenes” of Philo and Josephus, as the majority still generally believe, then the two historians were incorrect in several important ways. Present-day scholars must try to determine where Josephus, Philo, and other external sources help to illuminate and where they obfuscate the scrolls.
Archaeologists have raised other questions. In the 1950s, the Dominican archaeologist Roland de Vaux excavated a previously known ruin in the vicinity of the Dead Sea caves-a place that has long been called “Qumran” but not referred to by that name in ancient literature. Father de Vaux died without publishing his results, but he postulated that “Qumran” was the monastic home of the scroll keepers and the desert home of the “Essenes,” and this theory was widely accepted and continues to be dominant. De Vaux–himself a monk who was very interested in the origins of monastic life-describes one room of this ruin as having been the very scriptorium in which scrolls were copied; the room contained what appeared to be inkwells and the bases of desks.
More recent archaeologists who have excavated the site vigorously challenge de Vaux’s interpretation, saying that the ruin, far from being a monastery, gives every evidence of having been a villa very much in the Roman style. The “desk” bases that Father de Vaux had described are really dining-table bases, the glass fragments throughout the ruin are those of perfume bottles, perhaps suggesting that the villa had something to do with the perfume trade, a rich business then as now.
A few prominent scholars postulate that a still mysterious manuscript fragment called “MMT” strongly suggests that the community consisted not of Essenes but Sadducees, who at the time coexisted in a state of uneasy truce with the dominant Pharisees. Others, skeptical of the Essene, Sadducee, or any other unitary approach, view the scrolls as a collection of manuscripts representing the ideas of various Jewish groups in the period of the Second Temple. They believe that the best approach is to view the scrolls as a true library, containing books of all sorts, rather than just the sacred books and documents of a single evolving sect. For them, worrying less about “fitting” what they find among different manuscripts to a single sect’s identity is the more fruitful approach.
Whatever the best approach may be, almost all scholars are in agreement that the Dead Sea Scrolls provide extremely valuable information about the rich Judaic culture from which Christianity developed. The scrolls depict Jewish or para-Jewish nonconformists (whether of a single type or more) who rejected Pharisaic Temple worship and its cult of animal sacrifice, practiced a rite of baptism (as did other Jewish sects in the New Testament period), had a different canon of literature, and who believed in repentance and a new covenant in the expectation of a divine judgment. Three of the scrolls describe a sacred meal consisting of bread and wine, one of them depicting it as a messianic banquet. An apocalyptic or messianic war which would deliver Israel (or the righteous ones) from her enemies runs throughout the scroll literature.
Despite the mystical and apocalyptic bent of many of the scrolls, they also portray an almost fanatical purism and legalism, apparently beyond that of the Pharisees themselves, with Sabbath restrictions that were more numerous and more rigorously enforced. In daily activities, the community apparently followed strict rules of order and deference, for example, in dining hall seating. The scrolls also depict an avoidance-an almost phobic attitude-toward the world at large. Inside the community, the rules define orderly, peaceful, and generously humanitarian behavior. Outside the community are the hated enemies, the “Sons of Darkness.” The corruptions of the city are to be avoided like the plague. This attitude is easy to understand in the context of general decay and sectarian divisiveness under the shadow of Roman rule in Palestine, where the crucifixion of non-Romans was all in a day’s work.
Regardless of whether John the Baptist was an Essene or an inheritor of it or a parallel tradition, as many have suggested, he and Jesus definitely were not alone in the Judaean desert. If Jesus was influenced by such a tradition-essentially a mystical, apocalyptic, desert Jahwism of a sort that in some ways harked back to the very roots of Judaism-it gives the mocking epithet “King of the Jews” a new resonance and pathos.
These remarks have made use of several sources, including Athanasius Yeshue Samuel’s Treasury of Qumran: My Story of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Philadelphia, 1966); Yigael Yadin’s The Message of the Scrolls (New York, 1957); Gene L. Davenport’s The Eschatology of the Book of Jubilees (Leyden, 1971); James L. VanderKam’s Textual and Historical Studies in the Book of Jubilees (Missoula, 1977); Theodore H. Gaster’s The Dead Sea Scriptures in English Translation (New York, 1956); “Nova: Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” (PBS, 1991); particularly frequent reference has been made to Matthew Black’s The Scrolls and Christian Origins (New York, 1961).
The Book of Jubilees
translated by James VanderKam
The Book of Jubilees is a Jewish work that presents itself as a divine revelation which God communicated to Moses through an angel on Mt. Sinai. It begins with a chapter that describes the setting and predicts Israel’s apostasy and final return to the way of the Lord. Once this section is complete, the book recounts biblical history from creation to the arrival of the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. The author often reproduces the scriptural text word for word, but he also transforms it at numerous points by means of omissions and especially additions, providing what he takes to be the proper interpretation of Genesis-Exodus and applying their teachings to the issues of his day.
As nearly as one can tell, the book was composed in approximately 160-150 B.C. It was written in Hebrew and was apparently treated with considerable respect by some of its first readers. It is now known that the group which wrote and transcribed the Dead Sea Scrolls had numerous copies of it (fifteen have been identified) and that they seem to have included it among the works which they viewed as most authoritative-works that in later Christian parlance would be called canonical or biblical. Their view was not, however, shared by the majority of Jews. As a result the Hebrew version of the book was not preserved with the biblical writings and eventually disappeared-apparently through neglect. Fortunately, however, it had by that time been translated into Greek. It is not known when the translation was made or who did it; the earliest evidence for use of it comes from around 220 A.D. when the Christian scholar Julius Africanus consulted and cited it in his study of biblical history.
The Greek version of Jubilees seems to have been available for centuries. A number of Christian scholars referred to it and employed information from it to fill out what was stated too briefly or enigmatically in Genesis or omitted entirely. The Greek version, too, has been lost, but before it passed out of circulation it served as the base for translations into two other languages that were important in early Christianity: Ethiopic and Latin. Though these translations were made perhaps as early as 500 A.D., their existence became known to Western scholars only in the nineteenth century.
European scholars of the biblical world were aware that there once had been a document named the Book of Jubilees (or, the Little Genesis) because they knew of the citations from and allusions to it in patristic literature. Quotations and references of this sort had been collected in the eighteenth century by J.A. Fabricius in his two-volume work Codex Pseudepigraphus Veteris Testamenti (1722-23); the total amount of text from Jubilees occupied nineteen pages in his anthology. At that time, almost all scholars were completely unaware of the fact that the full text had survived elsewhere.
It was not until the nineteenth century that Western scholars first learned about the survival of the book’s entire text, and the information became available in a somewhat unexpected way. The expert who announced the presence of a full copy of the book was the biblical scholar Heinrich Ewald. In 1844 he published an article in which he lauded the recent complementary labors of missionaries and scholars. Scholars were providing linguistic tools with which missionaries could learn the languages spoken in the lands where they worked, and missionaries assisted scholars by bringing texts from those countries to European centers. Among the missionaries whom he singled out for high praise was one L. Krapf, who had brought to Europe a considerable number of Ethiopic manuscripts. He had traveled to the most southerly parts of old Ethiopia, visited the most remote monasteries, and assembled a sizable collection of manuscripts. Though Krapf had sent some manuscripts to Europe in their original form, he preferred-for financial reasons-to have local scholars in Ethiopia prepare paper copies of them.
Most of the material was sent to England since Krapf worked for the missionary society in London, but he had dispatched ten manuscripts to Tobingen and others to friends in Worttemberg. Much of Ewald’s article consists of descriptions of fifteen of these texts to which he had access and which he had studied to some degree. The first manuscript (or rather, paper copy) to which Ewald turned his attention was one called kufle. Investigation of the book’s contents proved to him that it was the one which writers of Greek had called ta iobelaia (the Jubilees) or helepte genesis (the Little Genesis). It was appropriate that Ewald dealt with it under the general heading of “Biblical Books” because the work had enjoyed canonical status in the Abyssinian or Ethiopian Church. The church there had become rather isolated from the rest of Christianity at an early time and had retained a wide array of sacred works, some of which the other Christian churches were later to exclude from the scriptural canon. If this ancient church had not continued to value its larger body of literature, Jubilees and similar texts (e.g., 1 Enoch) would have been much more poorly known today.
Ewald expressed the hope that he would soon be able to publish a translation of the newly available text. He was never to realize his hope, but his remarkable student August Dillmann achieved his mentor’s goal. His introduction to, rendering of, and notes on the one copy of Jubilees were published in 1850-51. (1) Dillmann’s publication inaugurated the modern Western study of the book, but the copy from which he labored proved to be so poor that even his efforts produced a text that was rather unsatisfactory at a number of points. Three critical editions of the Ethiopic version have been published: Dillmann’s in 1859 (using two manuscripts); (2) R.H. Charles’ in 1895 (four manuscripts); (3) and my own in 1989, based on the twenty-seven copies of Jubilees in Ethiopic now available for study. (4)
As noted above, the lost Greek version of Jubilees had also served as the basis for a translation into Latin. Nothing was known about it until 1861 when Antonius Maria Ceriani provided a transcription of the legible parts of the Latin translation that he had found in a fffth-sixth-century manuscript in the Ambrosian library in Milan. (5) His work of transcription was more difficult than one might expect because the manuscript in question is a palimpsest, that is, one work was copied onto it (Latin Jubilees) and later-perhaps when the first became too faded for use-a new text was transcribed over it so as not to waste the material on which the first text had been written. The result is that the text of Jubilees is very difficult to read. Nevertheless, Ceriani was able to decipher the Latin for about one third of it.
The most exciting chapter in the modern rediscovery of the text of Jubilees began in the late 1940s when the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves located in the area called Qumran. The first cave was found by Bedouin shepherds in the spring of 1947, and by 1956 a total of eleven caves that yielded written material were located in the same place. Eventually scholars identified more than 800 separate manuscripts, most of which were reduced to tatters by the ravages of time and creeping things. In the special atmospheric and somewhat protected conditions of the caves, however, these texts had survived, unlike virtually all other written evidence from the period. The great majority of the texts were written in Hebrew, some in Aramaic, and a few in Greek. All were dated between about 200 B.C. and 68 A.D. and apparently constituted the library of a community that lived around the site. Many of the texts proved to be copies of biblical books; they are far and away the oldest surviving witnesses to the wording of the text. Prior to the find, the oldest copy of the Old Testament dated from about 895 A.D. Thus, the new texts allowed scholars to see how the biblical text was worded some one thousand years earlier than was previously possible. Others of the scrolls were of diverse kinds: commentaries on biblical books, religious poetry much like the biblical psalms, legal works, rules for the community’s life, and plans for what would happen just before the end of the world.
Among these numerous scraps, fragments from different copies of the Book of Jubilees were found. In 1949, R. de Vaux, the archaeologist and eventual chief editor of the scrolls, published one small fragment of Jubilees in Hebrew. (6) On this small piece of what had once been, it seems, a complete manuscript of the book he could read only a few letters distributed over five lines; nevertheless, enough was legible to indicate that the text was from Jubilees.27:19-20. Subsequently, it was announced that several others of the caves from Qumran housed copies of Jubilees; today it is known that fragments from at least fifteen manuscripts exist, found in five different caves, the majority of them from Cave 4 (the thousands of fragments uncovered in this cave are the subject of the current controversies about delay in publishing the scrolls). The earliest of the Qumran Hebrew texts comes from approximately 125 B.C. (perhaps about twenty-five years after the book was written), the latest from the first century A.D. Altogether, the Dead Sea Scroll fragments contain words or in some cases just letters from some 215 of the 1,307 verses in the Book of Jubilees.
The published and unpublished Qumran fragments show, when they are compared with the Ethiopic and Latin versions, that the ancient translators of the book did their work with remarkable care. Though these two granddaughter translations are separated by the Greek translation from the Hebrew original, they largely agree with the Hebrew. The implication is that the Ethiopic and Latin forms of the book are reliable indicators of the original text and can thus be used as authentic reflections of what the author wrote in the mid-second century B.C.
The fragments not only confirm the wording of the text but also settle an old dispute about the date when the book was written. The first scholars who worked with the book in the nineteenth century thought the author had lived in the first century A.D., but R.H. Charles later argued that about 100 B.C. was more likely to be correct. His view held sway until the scrolls were found. At least one of the copies was made in about 125 B.C.; thus the book must have been written before this. The same can be said about other texts represented among the scrolls. Before the Qumran finds, no one thought that any of the Enoch literature antedated the mid-second century B.C. Now, however, part of 1 Enoch (chapters 72-82-the Astronomical Book) is attested in a copy that dates from around 200 B.C.
The scrolls have not made so direct a contribution to the dating of Old Testament books because, as almost all scholars have recognized, they were written long before the period of the scrolls. The Book of Daniel could have been an exception, since according to many experts, at least chapters 7-12 were composed in 165 B.C. Though copies of Daniel have been found among the scrolls, none of them was made before 165 B.C. In some extreme cases, however, the scrolls have demolished scholarly claims. F.M. Cross wrote that it is ” . . . a gain to have manuscripts, albeit fragmentary and incomplete, of the books of the Pentateuch, the Prophets, especially the Twelve [= the minor prophets], dating from the second century B.C., which rule out categorically speculations about extremely late additions to prophetic woris.” (7) In this connection he mentions the proposal of A. Dupont-Sommer, a prominent French scholar, that parts of Isaiah, Daniel, and Zechariah were written in the first century B.C. Second-century copies of the passages in question are now available.
Jubilees belongs to a category of literature that contemporary scholars designate by the pleasantly vague tag “the Rewritten Bible.” The author, like a number of other ancient Jewish writers, found it convenient to convey his message through an annotated presentation of the older text. In this way he could show that his views arose from the authoritative account and guide his readers into a proper understanding of it. He appears to be the earliest Jewish writer to maintain that Moses wrote the stories of Genesis and Exodus (in the Old Testament Moses is associated with the writing of laws, not narratives), but the most obvious modification that he introduced into Genesis-Exodus was to fit the biblical stories into a detailed and continuous chronological framework. He begins his year count from the first day of creation and concludes it with the date of Israel’s entry into the land of Canaan-a total of 2,450 years. He was able to use some year numbers from Genesis and Exodus for his purposes, but they are less than complete. He chose to employ as his standard unit of measure a forty-nine-year period which he called a “jubilee”-hence the name of the book. In Leviticus 25 “jubilee” designates the fiftieth year when individual Hebrews could gain release from slavery and when parcels of land reverted to their original owners. Our author, with a few other ancient Jewish writers, took “jubilee” to mean the forty-nine-year period that culminated in or was marked off by this fiftieth year. His 2,450-year chronology is divided into fifty of these fortynineyear units. His choice of chronological categories is no accident and proves to be theologically eloquent: in the fiftieth jubilee period the Israelites experienced release from Egyptian servitude and entered the land long ago promised to their ancestors. That is, as a nation they realized what was done on an individual basis during the biblical year of jubilee. No doubt the writer also appreciated the fact that his chronological system used a base of seven, just as many other facets of biblical life involved heptads (e.g., the seven days of creation, the sabbath as the seventh day, various sacrifices, etc.)
He also introduced a degree of organization or system at points where it is not as evident in Genesis. In his version of the creation story the writer explicitly enumerates twenty-two acts of creation (seven on the first day), after which came the sabbath. For him, the total was theologically significant and related to Israelite history: the biblical patriarchs from Adam through Isaac numbered twentytwo generations; after them came his hero Jacob, the eponymous ancestor of Israel.
Each jubilee period consists of seven “weeks” of years, and naturally each of the weeks includes seven years. When he is dating events the author almost always specifies the number of the jubilee, the week, and the year in which it occurred. His year, however, though it is solar, has only 364 days, not 365 and a fraction. He found evidence for a 364-day year in the biblical flood story, in which a relatively large number of dates are given. The solar year of 364 days had certain obvious advantages: every date occurred on the same day of the week each year because 364 is precisely divisible by seven. In the calendar that became normative in Judaism, the holidays moved through the days of the week, sometimes occurring on the sabbath, while in the Jubilees calendar they never migrate. Thus, there would never arise a conflict regarding which laws took precedence-those of the sabbath or those of a festival that happened to fall on the sabbath in a particular year. Several of the Dead Sea Scrolls employ the same calendar. It may have been one of the causes why those who wrote them eventually separated from their Jewish fellows in the midsecond century B.C.
It should be noted that calendars play a significant role in preserving social cohesion. The authorities of the Jewish nation used to establish the date of the new moon (= the beginning of the month) on the basis of observation. Once the first of the month was fixed, the dates of the festivals that occurred in that month were also set. If a dispute arose about when the month began, or if a group refused to use lunar calculations for its calendar (as the author of Jubilees did), it would entail celebrating holidays at different times and thus introducing divisions within the community. If a party was not celebrating Passover when everyone else was, it would be difficult for them to feel at one with the nation. Calendrical disputes have clear political consequences-as the Qumran community shows.
A second feature of Jubilees’ revision of the biblical text is the writer’s insistence that certain religious rites, such as the celebration of festivals whose origins the Bible traces to the time of Moses, were in fact practiced by the earlier ancestors (Noah, Abraham, etc.). One significant example is the Festival of Weeks-a festival that occurred fifty days after an event near Passover and that was later called by its Greek name Pentecost. Jubilees claims that it was not Moses and his contemporaries who first celebrated the holiday; rather, it was Noah and his sons who did so after the flood waters had dried from the earth. Moreover, though Noah and his sons were the first humans to mark the occasion, the festival had actually been celebrated since creation in the heavenly world. When Moses and the Israelites came along, they were merely renewing a holiday that had been neglected for some time Oubilees 6:17-22) and entering a covenant on the anniversary of earlier pacts with God. He operates in a similar fashion for the Festival of Booths and the Day of Atonement; he finds triggers for them in the text of Genesis-the former in the time of Abraham, the latter in that of Jacob-and thus designates the two patriarchs as the ones who first observed the holidays.
There is every reason to believe that the author himself was a priest. His concern with sacral topics suggests as much. Also, he takes great pains to show that Jacob’s son Levi, who in the Bible is the eponymous ancestor of the priests but himself does nothing of a sacerdotal sort, was in fact designated priest and functioned as one for his fatheLand brothers. To Levi the books of the ancestors were given, and he presumably passed them along to his priestly descendants.
A third kind of treatment to which the author subjected the text of Genesis-Exodus involves wholesale expansions of the text. Where the biblical text may contain only a brief notice or nothing at all, he occasionally adds an entire story. One such expansion arises in connection with Genesis 6:1-4 and the flood account which follows. Like many ancient Jewish and Christian writers, he had a specific interpretation of the cryptic words in Genesis 6:4: “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days-and also afterward- when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.” (8) Our author apparently understood “the sons of God” to be angels who descended from heaven and married women through whom they fathered giants. They in turn produced the extraordinary, superhuman level of evil that forced God to send the flood. Though the gigantic offspring of the angels who had descended perished in the flood waters, demons who emanated from them and their fathers continued to exercise their baleful influence in the postdiluvian period. In this way, the ongoing presence of evil in the world was explained.
Other major supplements to the text have to do with the remarkable achievements of Enoch, the division of the earth among Noah’s three sons, the youthful exploits of Abram, the battles which Jacob and his sons fought against their enemies, and several sermonic expansions (for example, against intermarriage with foreigners, or using the wrong calendar).
A final type of change introduced into the text could be characterized as problem-solving. Genesis-Exodus has raised many difficulties for readers over the centuries; Jubilees shows that they troubled expositors more than two thousand years ago. Two examples should suffice to illustrate the category. The first has to do with something that Genesis omits-the creation of angels. They are mentioned at several places in the biblical text and may be implied already in 1:26, where God is speaking to someone, though no rational creature had yet been created. If they were present already at creation and guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden, when were they made? Genesis does not say, but Jubilees places their origin on the first day of the first week. The text which gave the writer warrant for making this claim was Genesis 1:2: “…the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” The word translated wind can also mean spirit, and the author of Jubilees took it in that sense. For him, it was a collective term that referred to the multiplicity of spiritual or angelic creatures whom he mentions in Jubilees 2:2.
The writer penned his work at a time when some of his fellow Jews were raising questions about the laws which made their way of life different from that of all other peoples. 1 Maccabees, which describes events that happened in the 170s-130s B.C., reports that some Jewish people wished to discard their legal system for one that more nearly aligned itself with the practices of the nations with whom they came into contact. Their case, if it resembled an approach that seems to have been popular elsewhere in the Hellenistic period, was that there had once been a time of legal purity or innocence for their people but that it had ended when the national lawgiver imposed narrow, ethnic rules on his people. It may be that the Jewish opponents of the traditional Mosaic laws wanted to return to what they surmised were the simpler conditions of patriarchal times, when great Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not celebrate the festivals, follow kosher law, or encumber the sabbath with a multitude of crimping laws. All of that came only later, when Moses appeared on the scene. Would it not be better to imitate Abraham’s practice and thus remove those barriers which separated Jew from non-Jew?
This appears to be the kind of position which Jubilees tries to refute. The author argues that if one reads Genesis properly it shows that the special Jewish practices did not arise in a later time but can be traced to earliest days-to the eras of Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Those who wished to imitate the ancestors would simply find themselves behaving in those distinctive ways which had always differentiated the Hebrew people from all others. There was no pristine period of simple worship; Moses continued what had been in place long before. If the numerous copies of Jubilees in their library are any evidence, it certainly appealed to the strict sect of the Essenes who wrote and copied the Dead Sea Scrolls. It also caught the fancy of some Christian groups who may have had strong legal interests and who appreciated how it supplemented the information in GenesisExodus.
The rediscovery of this book in relatively recent times has thus revealed ancient debates and approaches to the biblical text. Jubilees illustrates the kind of milieu from which the community of the Dead Sea Scrolls was to take its inspiration when its leaders decided to separate from normal Jewish society and form an isolated community in the Judaean wilderness. It suggests that the Essenes were strict interpreters of the law, avid students of scripture, and a group who looked eagerly to the final divine intervention in human affairs.
The following selections from the book are based primarily on the Ethiopic text,9 but where possible they also reflect the readings from the Dead Sea Scroll fragments. Each of the selections is prefaced by a paragraph which places it in context within the book and summarizes the material.
(1) “Das Buch der Jubilaen oder die kleine Genesis,” JahrbŸcher der Biblischen wissenschaft: 2 (1850) 231-56; 3 (1851) 1-72.
(2) Mashafa Kufale sive Liber Jubilaeorum (Kiel : van Maack; London : Williams and Norgate, 1859).
(3) Mashafa Kufale or the Ethiopic Version of the Hekbew Book of Jubilees (Anecdota oxoniensia; Oxford: Clarendon, 1895).
(4) The Book of Jubilees (2 vols.; Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 510- 511, Scriptores Aethiopici 88-89; Louvain: Peeters, 1989).
(5) “Fragmenta Parvae Genesis et Assumptio Mosis ex Veteri Versione Latina,” Fragmenta Sacra et Profana (Milan: Bibliotheca Ambrosiana, 1861) 1.15-54.
(6) La grotte des manuscrits hebreux, Revue biblique 56 (1949) 602 605, with Plate XVla.
(7) The Ancient Library of Qumran s Modern Biblical Studies (Revised edition; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), 164.
(8) Biblical translations are trom the New Revised Standard Version.
(9) The translations are largely from my The Book of Jubilees, vol. 2, and are used with the permission of the publisher, Mr. E. Peeters.
The Book of Jubilees
Prologue and 1:1-6: The Setting: The author begins by locating the revelation at Mt. Sinai and by summarizing the contents and purpose of the book. (10)
These are the words regarding the divisions of the times of the law and of the testimony, of the events of the years, of the weeks of their jubilees throughout all the years of eternity as he related (them) to Moses on Mt. Sinai when he went up to receive the stone tablets–the law and the commandment–by the word of the Lord, as he told him: “Come up to the summit of the mountain.” 1:1 During the first year of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, in the third month–on the sixteenth of this month–the Lord said to Moses: “Come up to me to the mountain. I will give you the two stone tablets–the law and the commandment which I have written to teach them.” 1:2 So Moses went up to the mountain of the Lord. The glory of the Lord took up residence on Mt. Sinai, and a cloud covered it for six days. 1:3 When he summoned Moses into the cloud on the seventh day, he saw the glory of the Lord like a fire blazing on the summit of the mountain. 1:4 Moses remained on the mountain for forty days and forty nights while the Lord told him the first and the last things as well as what will come. He related to him the divisions of the times–for the law and for the testimony. 1:5 He said to him: “Pay attention to all the words which I tell you on this mountain. Write them in a book so that their generations may know that I have not abandoned them because of all the evil which they have done in breaking the covenant which I am making between me and you today for their generations on Mt. Sinai. 1:6 So it will be that when all of these things befall them they will recognize that I have been more faithful than they in all their judgments and in all their actions. They will recognize that I have indeed been with them.”
Jubilees 1:27-2:18: Revelation through an angel and creation: After a dialogue between God and Moses about Israel’s future wickedness and repentance, the text relates how Moses received the revelations contained in the book and presents the story about creation.
1:27 Then he told the angel of the presence to dictate to Moses from the beginning of the creation until my sanctuary is built among them for all the ages of eternity. 1:28 The Lord will appear in the site of all, and all will know that I am the God of Israel, father of all Jacob’s children, and king on Mt. Zion for all the ages of eternity. Then Zion and Jerusalem will be holy. 1:29 The angel of the presence, who was going along in front of the Israelite camp, took the tablets (which told) of the divisions of the years from the time the law and the testimony were createdÑ for the weeks of their jubilees, year by year in their full number, and their jubilees from the time of the creation until the time of the new creation when the heavens, the earth, and all their creatures will be renewed like the powers of the sky and like all the creatures of the earth, until the time when the temple of the Lord will be created in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion. All the luminaries will be renewed for (the purposes of) healing, health, and blessing for all the elect ones of Israel and so that it may remain this way from that time throughout all the days of the earth. 2:1 The angel of the presence said to Moses by the word of the Lord: “Write all the words of the creation–how on the sixth day the Lord God completed all his works and everything that he created and kept sabbath on the seventh day. He sanctified it for all ages and set it as a sign for all his works. 2:2 For on the first day he created the heavens that are above, the earth, the waters, and all the spirits who serve before him: the angels of the presence; the angels of holiness; and the angels of the spirits of fire; the angels of the winds that blow, the angels of the spirits of the clouds, of darkness, ice, hoar-frost, dew, snow, hail, and frost; the angels of the sounds; the angels of the storm-winds; the angels of the spirits of cold and heat, of winter and summer, and of all the spirits of his creatures which he made in the heavens, which he made on the earth, and in every place; the depths, darkness, dawn, light, and evening which he prepared through his knowledge. 2:3 Then we [= the angels] saw his works and we blessed him regarding all his works, and we offered praise before him because he had made seven great works on the first day. 2:4 On the second day he made a firmament between the waters, and the waters were divided on that day. Half of them went up above the firmament, and half of them went down below the firmament which was in the middle above the surface of the whole earth. This was the only work that he made on the second day. 2:5 On the third day he did as he said to the waters that they should pass from the surface of the whole earth to one place and that the dry land should appear. 2:6 The waters did so, as he told them. They withdrew from the surface of the earth to one place apart from this firmament, and dry land appeared. 2:7 On that day he created for them all the seas–each with the places where they collected–all the rivers, and the places where the waters collected in the mountains and on the whole earth; all the reservoirs, all the dew of the earth; the seed which gives seed in its kind, all that sprouts, the trees that produce fruit, the forests, and the garden of Eden in Eden for enjoyment and for food. These four great types he made on the third day. 2:8 On the fourth day the Lord made the sun, the moon, and the stars. He placed them in the firmament of the heavens to shed light over the whole earth, to rule over the day and the night, and to separate between light and darkness. 2:9 He appointed the sun as a great sign above the earth for days, for sabbaths, for months, for festivals, for years, for the weeks of years, for jubilees, and for all the eras of the years. 2:10 It separates between the light and the darkness and (serves) for healing so that everything that sprouts and grows on the earth may be well. These three things he made on the fourth day. 2:11 On the fifth day he created the great sea animals within the depths of the waters, for these were the first fleshly products of his hands; everything that moves about in the waters–fish, and all the birds that fly, and all their kinds. The sun shone over them for well-being and over everything that was on the earth– all that sprouts from the earth, all trees that produce fruit, and all flesh. These three great kinds he made on the fifth day. 2:13 On the sixth day he made all the land animals, all cattle, and everything that moves about on the earth. 2:14 After all these he made mankind–male and female he made them. He made him rule over everything on the earth and in the seas and over everything that flies, over the animals, all the small animals that move about on the earth, the cattle, and over the entire earth. Over all these he made him rule. These four kinds he made on the sixth day. 2:15 The total was twenty-two kinds. 2:16 He finished all his works on the sixth day: everything that was in the heavens, on the earth, in the seas, in the depths, in the light, in the darkness, and in every (place). 2:17 He gave us the sabbath day as a great sign so that we should perform work for six days and that we should keep sabbath from all work on the seventh day. 2:18 He told us– all the angels of the presence and all the angels of holiness, these two kinds–to keep sabbath with him in heaven and on earth.”
Jubilees 6:15-38: Covenant and calendar: The book tells the familiar stories of Adam, Eve, and their children and reproduces the Genesis 5 genealogy of long-lived patriarchs. The flood narrative is prefaced by the descent of the angels and the great evil which resulted. The account of the flood then leads into an expansion which speaks of the covenant on the festival of weeks and divulges the specifics of the 364-day calendar.
6:15 He gave Noah and his sons a sign that there would not again be a flood on the earth. 6:16 He put his bow in the clouds as a sign of the eternal covenant that there would not henceforth be flood waters on the earth for the purpose of destroying it throughout all the days of the earth. 6:17 For this reason it has been ordained and written on the heavenly tablets that they should celebrate the festival of weeks during this month–once a year–to renew the covenant each and every year. 6:18 This entire festival had been celebrated in heaven from the time of creation until the lifetime of Noah–for 26 jubilees and five weeks of years [= 1309 years]. Then Noah and his sons kept it for seven jubilees and one week of years until Noah’s death [= 350 years]. From the day of Noah’s death his sons corrupted (it) until Abraham’s lifetime and were eating blood. 6:19 Abraham alone kept (it), and his sons Isaac and Jacob kept it until your lifetime. During your lifetime the Israelites had forgotten (it) until I renewed (it) for them at this mountain. 6:20 Now you command the Israelites to keep this festival during all their generations as a commandment for them: one day in the year, during this month, they are to celebrate the festival 6:21 because it is the festival of weeks and it is the festival of firstfruits. This festival is twofold and of two kinds. Celebrate it as it is written and inscribed regarding it. 6:22 For I have written (this) in the book of the first law in which I wrote for you that you should celebrate it at each of its times one day in a year. I have told you about its sacrifice so that the Israelites may continue to remember and celebrate it throughout their generations during this month– one day each year. 6:23 On the first of the first month, the first of the fourth month, the first of the seventh month, and the first of the tenth month are memorial days and days of the seasons. They are written down and ordained at the four divisions of the year as an eternal testimony. 6:24 Noah ordained them as festivals for himself throughout the history of eternity with the result that through them he had a reminder. 6:25 On the first of the first month he was told to make the ark, and on it the earth became dry, he opened (it), and saw the earth. 6:26 On the first of the fourth month the openings of the depths of the abyss below were closed. On the first of the seventh month all the openings of the earth’s depths were opened, and the water began to go down into them. 6:27 On the first of the tenth month the summits of the mountains became visible, and Noah was very happy. 6:28 For this reason he ordained them for himself forever as memorial festivals. So they are ordained, 6:29 and they enter them on the heavenly tablets. Each of them (consists of) 13 weeks; their memorial (extends) from one to the other: from the first to the second, from the second to the third, and from the third to the fourth. 6:30 All the days of the commandments will be 52 weeks of days; (they will make) the entire year complete. 6:31 So it has been engraved and ordained on the heavenly tablets. One is not allowed to transgress a single year, year by year. 6:32 Now you command the Israelites to keep the years in this number–364 days. Then the year will be complete and it will not disturb its time from its days or from its festivals because everything will happen in harmony with their testimony. They will neither omit a day nor disturb a festival. 6:33 If they transgress and do not celebrate them in accord with his command, then all of them will disturb their times. The years will be moved from this; they will disturb the times and the years will be moved. They will transgress their prescribed pattern. 6:34 All the Israelites will forget and will not find the way of the years. They will forget the first of the month, the season, and the sabbath; they will err with respect to the entire prescribed pattern of the years. 6:35 For I know and from now on will inform you–not from my own mind because this is the way the book is written in front of me, and the divisions of times are ordained on the heavenly tablets, lest they forget the covenantal festivals and walk in the festivals of the nations, after their error and after their ignorance. 6:36 There will be people who carefully observe the moon with lunar observations because it is corrupt (with respect to) the seasons and is early from year to year by ten days. 6:37 Therefore years will come about for them when they will disturb (the year) and make a day of testimony something worthless and a profane day a festival. Everyone will join together both holy days with the profane and the profane day with the holy day, for they will err regarding the months, the sabbaths, the festivals, and the jubilee. 6:38 For this reason I am commanding you and testifying to you so that you may testify to them because after your death your children will disturb (it) so that they do not make the year (consist of) 364 days only. Therefore, they will err regarding the first of the month, the season, the sabbath, and the festivals. They will eat all the blood with all (kinds of) meat.
Jubilees 11:14-12:15: Abram as a youth: Large parts of chapters 7-9 are devoted to Noah’s instructions to his descendants and a detailed account of how the world was divided between his three sons. One learns also that demons who emanated from the fallen angels continued to exercise their devious influence after the flood. Noah’s death is recorded, and the biblical genealogy continues, with an interlude about the tower of Babel, to the generation of Abram about whom a number of stories are told.
11:14 During the thirty-ninth jubilee, in the second week, in the first year , Terah married a woman whose name was Edna, the daughter of Abram, the daughter of his father’s sister. 11:15 In the seventh year of this week  she gave birth to a son for him, and he named him Abram after his mother’s father because he had died before his daughter’s son was conceived. 11:16 The child began to realize the errors of the earth–that everyone was going astray after the statues and after impurity. His father taught him (the art of) writing. When he was two weeks of years [= 14 years], he separated from his father in order not to worship idols with him. 11:17 He began to pray to the creator of all that he would save him from the errors of mankind and that it might not fall to his share to go astray after impurity and wickedness. 11:18 When the time for planting seeds in the ground arrived, all of them went out together to guard the seed from the ravens. Abram–a child of 14 years–went out with those who were going out. 11:19 As a cloud of ravens came to eat the seed, Abram would run at them before they could settle on the ground. He would shout at them before they could settle on the ground to eat the seed and would say: “Do not come down; return to the place from which you came!” And they returned. 11:20 That day he did (this) to the cloud of ravens 70 times. Not a single raven remained in any of the fields where Abram was. 11:21 All who were with him in any of the fields would see him shouting; then all of the ravens returned (to their place). His reputation grew large throughout the entire land of the Chaldeans. 11:22 All who were planting seed came to him in this year, and he kept going with them until the seedtime came to an end. They planted their land and that year brought in enough food. So they ate and were filled. 11:23 In the first year of the fifth week  Abram taught the people who made equipment for bulls–the skillful woodworkers– and they made an implement above the ground, opposite the plow beam, so that one could place seed on it. The seed would then drop down from it onto the end of the plow and be hidden in the ground; and they would no longer be afraid of the ravens. 11:24 They made (something) like this above the ground on every plow beam. They planted seed, and all the land did as Abram told them. So they were no longer afraid of the birds. 12:1 During the sixth week, in its seventh year , Abram said to his father Terah: “My father.” He said: “Yes, my son?” 12:2 He said: “What help and advantage do we get from these idols before which you worship and prostrate yourself? 12:3 For there is no spirit in them because they are dumb. There are an error of the mind. Do not worship them. 12:4 Worship the God of heaven who makes the rain and dew fall on the earth and makes everything on the earth. He created everything by his word; and all life (comes) from his presence. 12:5 Why do you worship those things which have no spirit in them? For they are made by hands and you carry them on your shoulders. You receive no help from them, but instead they are a great shame for those who make them and an error of the mind for those who worship them. Do not worship them.” 12:6 Then he said to him: “I, too, know (this), my son. What shall I do with the people who have ordered me to serve in their presence? 12:7 If I tell them what is right, they will kill me because they themselves are attached to them so that they worship and praise them. Be quiet, my son, so that they do not kill you.” 12:8 When he told these things to his two brothers and they became angry at him, he remained silent. 12:9 During the fortieth jubilee, in the second week, in its seventh year , Abram married a woman whose name was Sarai, the daughter of his father, and she became his wife. 12:10 His brother Haran married a woman in the third year of the third week , and she gave birth to a son for him in the seventh year of this week . He named him Lot. 12:11 His brother Nahor also got married. 12:12 In the sixtieth year of Abram’s life (which) was the fourth week, in its fourth year , Abram got up at night and burned the temple of the idols. He burned everything in the temple but no one knew (about it). 12:13 They got up at night and wanted to save their gods from the fire. 12:14 Haran dashed in to save them, but the fire raged over him. He was burned in the fire and died in Ur of the Chaldeans before his father Terah. They buried him in Ur of the Chaldeans. 12:15 Then Terah left Ur of the Chaldeans–he and his sons–to go to the land of Lebanon and the land of Canaan. He settled in Haran, and Abram lived with his father in Haran for two weeks of years.
Jubilees 19:13-31: Abraham and his grandsons Jacob and Esau: Jubilees follows the biblical stories about Abram (who was renamed Abraham), including the drama about becoming a parent in old age. His son Isaac married a relative named Rebecca, and the two became parents of twins–Jacob and Esau. The Bible mentions no contact between grandfather and grandsons, but its chronology shows that he was still living during their earlier years.
19:13 In the sixth week, during its second year , Rebecca gave birth to two sons for Isaac: Jacob and Esau. Jacob was perfect and upright, while Esau was a harsh, rustic, and hairy man. Jacob used to live in tents. 19:14 When the boys grew up, Jacob learned (the art of) writing, but Esau did not learn (it) because he was a rustic man and a hunter. He learned (the art of) warfare, and everything that he did was harsh. 19:15 Abraham loved Jacob but Isaac (loved) Esau. 19:16 As Abraham observed Esau’s behavior, he realized that through Jacob he would have a reputation and descendants. He summoned Rebecca and gave her orders about Jacob because he saw that she loved Jacob much more than Esau. 19:17 He said to her: “My daughter, take care of my son Jacob because he will occupy my place on the earth and (will prove) a blessing among mankind and the glory of all the descendants of Shem. 19:18 For I know that the Lord will choose him as his own people (who will be) special from all who are on the surface of the earth. 19:19 My son Isaac now loves Esau more than Jacob, but I see that you rightly love Jacob. 19:20 Increase your favor to him still more; may your eyes look at him lovingly because he will prove to be a blessing for us on the earth from now and throughout all the history of the earth. 19:21 May your hands be strong and your mind be happy with your son Jacob because I love him much more than all my sons; for he will be blessed forever and his descendants will fill the entire earth. 19:22 If a man is able to count the sands on the earth, in the same way his descendants, too, will be counted. 19:23 May all the blessings with which the Lord blessed me and my descendants belong to Jacob and his descendants for all time. 19:24 Through his descendants may my name and the name of my ancestors Shem, Noah, Enoch, Malaleel, Enos, Seth, and Adam be blessed. 19:25 May they serve (the purpose of) laying heaven’s foundations, making the earth firm, and renewing all the luminaries which are above the firmament.” 19:26 Then he summoned Jacob into the presence of his mother Rebecca, kissed him, blessed him, and said: 19:27 “My dear son Jacob whom I myself love, may God bless you from above the firmament. May he give you all the blessings with which he blessed Adam, Enoch, Noah, and Shem. Everything that he said to me and everything that he promised to give me may he attach to you and your descendants until eternity–like the days of heaven above the earth. 19:28 May the spirits of Mastema not rule over you and your descendants to remove you from following the Lord who is your God from now and forever. 19:29 May the Lord God become your father and you his first- born son and people for all time. Go in peace, my son.” 19:30 The two of them departed together from Abraham. 19:31 Rebecca loved Jacob with her entire heart and her entire being very much more than Esau; but Isaac loved Esau much more than Jacob.
Jubilees 30:1-23: Warnings about intermarriage: Abraham dies and the story, as in the Bible, centers on Jacob. Quarrels with his brother forced him to flee to Haran where he married two sisters and fathered eleven sons and one daughter. When he returned to Canaan, he showed kindness to his aging parents, unlike Esau who robbed and mistreated them. Jacob’s daughter was raped by Shechem (Genesis 34). To this story the writer attaches warnings against marriages between Israelites and foreigners. Where the Bible condemns Levi and Simeon (sons of Jacob) for slaughtering the residents of the city Shechem in revenge, Jubilees finds in Levi’s act the reason why he and his descendants were chosen for the priesthood.
30:1 During the first year of the sixth week  he went up safely to Salem, which is on the east side of Shechem, in the fourth month. 30:2 There Jacob’s daughter Dinah was taken by force to the house of Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of the land. He lay with her and defiled her. Now she was a small girl, twelve years of age. 30:3 He begged her father and her brothers that she be given to him as (his) wife. Jacob and his sons were angry with the Shechemites because they had defiled their sister Dinah. They spoke deceptively with them, acted in a crafty way toward them, and deceived them. 30:4 Simeon and Levi entered Shechem unexpectedly and effected a punishment on all the Shechemites. They killed every man whom they found in it. They left absolutely no one in it. They killed everyone in a painful way because they had violated their sister Dinah. 30:5 Nothing like this is to be done anymore from now on–to defile an Israelite woman. For the punishment had been decreed against them in heaven that they were to annihilate all the Shechemites with the sword, since they had done something shameful in Israel. 30:6 The Lord handed them over to Jacob’s sons for them to uproot them with the sword and to effect punishment against them and so that there should not again be something like this within Israel– defiling an Israelite virgin. 30:7 If there is a man in Israel who wishes to give his daughter or his sister to any foreigner, he is to die. He is to be stoned because he has done something sinful and shameful within Israel. The woman is to be burned because she has defiled the reputation of her father’s house; she is to be uprooted from Israel. 30:8 No adulterer or impure person is to be found within Israel throughout all the time of the earth’s history, for Israel is holy to the Lord. Any man who has defiled it is to die; he is to be stoned. 30:9 For this is the way it has been ordained and written on the heavenly tablets regarding any descendant of Israel who defiles (it): “He is to die; he is to be stoned.” 30:10 This law has no temporal limit. There is no remission or any forgiveness; but rather the man who has defiled his daughter within all of Israel is to be eradicated because he has given one of his descendants to Molech and has sinned by defiling them. 30:11 Now you, Moses, order the Israelites and testify to them that they are not to give any of their daughters to foreigners and that they are not to marry any foreign women because it is despicable before the Lord. 30:12 For this reason I have written for you in the words of the law everything that the Shechemites did to Dinah and how Jacob’s sons said: “We will not give our daughter to a man who has a foreskin because for us that would be a disgraceful thing.” 30:13 It is a disgraceful thing for the Israelites who give or take (in marriage) one of the foreign women because it is too impure and despicable for Israel. 30:14 Israel will not become clean from this impurity while it has one of the foreign women or if anyone has given one of his daughters to any foreign man. 30:15 For it is blow upon blow and curse upon curse. Every punishment, blow, and curse will come. If one does this or shuts his eyes to those who do impure things and who defile the Lord’s sanctuary and to those who profane his holy name, then the entire nation will be condemned together because of all this impurity and this contamination. 30:16 There will be no favoritism nor partiality; there will be no receiving from him of fruit, sacrifices, offerings, fat, or the aroma of a pleasing fragrance so that he should accept it. (So) is any man or woman in Israel to be who defiles his sanctuary. 30:17 For this reason I have ordered you: “Proclaim this testimony to Israel: ‘See how it turned out for the Shechemites and their children–how they were handed over to Jacob’s two sons. They killed them in a painful way. It was a just act for them and was recorded as a just act for them.’ 30:18 Levi’s descendants were chosen for the priesthood and as levites to serve before the Lord as we (do) for all time. Levi and his sons will be blessed forever because he was eager to carry out justice, punishment, and revenge on all who rise against Israel. 30:19 So blessing and justice before the God of all are entered for him as a testimony on the heavenly tablets. 30:20 We ourselves remember the justice which the man performed during his lifetime at all times of the year. As far as 1,000 generations will they enter (it). It will come to him and his family after him. He has been recorded on the heavenly tablets as a friend and a just man.” 30:21 I have written this entire message for you and have ordered you to tell the Israelites not to sin or transgress the statutes or violate the covenant which was established for them so that they should perform it and be recorded as friends. 30:22 But if they transgress and behave in any impure ways, they will be recorded on the heavenly tablets as enemies. They will be erased from the book of the living and will be recorded in the book of those who will be destroyed and with those who will be uprooted from the earth. 30:23 On the day that Jacob’s sons killed (the people of) Shechem, a notice was entered in heaven for them (to the effect) that they carried out what was right, justice, and revenge against the sinners. It was recorded as a blessing.
Jubilees 37:1-38:14: The war between Jacob and Esau: Jubilees offers several expansions of the biblical story in connection with Jacob and his sons. Among these are blessings pronounced by Isaac on his grandsons Levi (ancestor of the priests) and Judah (father of the kings). Rebecca urged her two sons Jacob and Esau to love one another; they pledged to do so. She then died and Isaac gave them similar instructions before dividing the property among them. Esau at first assented to Jacob’s receiving the larger share, but later his sons forced him to attack his brother while Jacob was mourning for his wife Leah.
37:1 On the day that Isaac, the father of Jacob and Esau, died Esau’s sons heard that Isaac had given the birthright to his younger son Jacob. They became very angry. 37:2 They quarreled with their father: “Why is it that when you are the older and Jacob the younger your father gave Jacob the birthright and neglected you?” 37:3 He said to them: “Because I sold my right of the first-born to Jacob in exchange for a little lentil broth. The day my father sent me to hunt and trap and to bring (something) to him so that he could eat (it) and bless me, he came in a crafty way and brought in food and drink to my father. My father blessed him and put me under his control. 37:4 Now our father has made us–me and him–swear that we will not aim at what is bad, the one against his brother, and that we will continue in (a state of) mutual love and peace, each with his brother, so that we should not corrupt our behavior.” 37:5 They said to him: “We will not listen to you by making peace with him because our strength is greater than his strength, and we are stronger than he is. We will go against him, kill him, and destroy his sons. If you do not go with us, we will harm you, too. 37:6 Now listen to us; let us send to Aram, Philistia, Moab, and Ammon; and let us choose for ourselves select men who are brave in battle. Then let us go against him, fight with him, and uproot him from the earth before he gains strength.” 37:7 Their father said to them: “Do not go and do not make war with him so that you may not fall before him.” 37:8 They said to him: “Is this not the very way you have acted from your youth until today? You are putting your neck beneath his yoke. We will not listen to what you are saying.” 37:9 So they sent to Aram and to their father’s friend Aduram. Together with them they hired for themselves 1,000 fighting men, select warriors. 37:10 There came to them from Moab and from the Ammonites 1,000 select men who were hired; from the Philistines 1,000 select warriors; from Edom and the Horites 1,000 select fighters, and from the Kittim strong warriors. 37:11 They said to their father: “Go out; lead them. Otherwise, we will kill you.” 37:12 He was filled with anger and wrath when he saw that his sons were forcing him to go in front in order to lead them to his brother Jacob. 37:13 But afterwards he remembered all the bad things that were hidden in his mind against his brother Jacob, and he did not remember the oath that he had sworn to his father and mother not to aim at anything bad against his brother Jacob throughout his entire lifetime. 37:14 During all of this, Jacob was unaware that they were coming to him for battle. He, for his part, was mourning for his wife Leah until they approached him near the tower with 4,000 warriors, select fighting men. 37:15 The people of Hebron sent word to him: “Your brother has just now come against you to fight you with 4,000 men who have swords buckled on and are carrying shields and weapons.” They told him because they loved Jacob more than Esau, since Jacob was a more generous and kind man than Esau. 37:16 But Jacob did not believe (it) until they came near the tower. 37:17 Then he closed the gates of the tower, stood on the top, and spoke with his brother Esau. He said: “It is a fine consolation that you have come to give me for my wife who has died. Is this the oath that you swore to your father and your mother two times before he died? You have violated the oath and were condemned in the hour when you swore (it) to your father.” 37:18 Then Esau said in reply to him: “Neither mankind nor animals have a true oath which they, once they have sworn, have sworn (it as valid) forever. Every day they aim at what is bad for one another and at each one killing his enemy and opponent. 37:19 You will hate me and my sons forever. There is no observing of brotherly ties with you. 37:20 Listen to what I have to say to you. If a pig changes its hide and makes its bristles as limp as wool; and if horns like deer’s and sheep’s horns emerge from its head, then I will observe brotherly ties with you. The breasts have been separated from their mother, for you have not been a brother to me. 37:21 If wolves make peace with lambs so that they do not eat them or injure them; and if they have resolved to treat them well, then there will be peace in my mind for you. 37:22 If the lion becomes the friend of a bull, and if it is harnessed together with it in a yoke and plows with it and makes peace with it, then I will make peace with you. 37:23 If the raven turns white like the raza-bird, then know that I love you and will make peace with you. (As for) you– be uprooted and may your children be uprooted. There is to be no peace for you.” 37:24 When Jacob saw that he was adversely inclined toward him from his mind and his entire self so that he could kill him and (that) he had come bounding along like a boar that comes upon the spear which pierces it and kills it but does not pull back from it, 37:25 then he told his own (people) and his servants to attack him and all his companions. 38:1 After this Judah spoke to his father Jacob and said to him: “Draw your bow, father; shoot your arrow; pierce the enemy; and kill the foe. May you have the strength because we will not kill your brother, since he is near to you and, in our estimation, he is equal to you in honor.” 38:2 Jacob then stretched his bow, shot an arrow, pierced his brother Esau [on his right breast], and struck him down. 38:3 He shot another arrow and hit Aduran the Aramean on his left breast; he drove him back and killed him. 38:4 After this Jacob’s sons–they and their servants–went out, dividing themselves to the four sides of the tower. 38:5 Judah went out in front. Naphtali and Gad were with him, and 50 servants were with him on the south side of the tower. They killed everyone whom they found in front of them. No one at all escaped from them. 38:6 Levi, Dan, and Asher went out on the east side of the tower, and 50 were with them. They killed the Moabite and Ammonite warriors. 38:7 Reuben, Issachar, and Zebulun went out on the north side of the tower, and 50 were with them. They killed the Philistine fighting men. 38:8 Simeon, Benjamin, and Enoch–Reuben’s son–went out on the west side of the tower, and 50 were with them. Of (the people of) Edom and the Horites they killed 400 strong warriors, and 600 ran away. Esau’s four sons ran away with them. They left their slain father just as he had fallen on the hill that is in Aduram. 38:9 Jacob’s sons pursued them as far as Mt. Seir, while Jacob buried his brother on the hill that is in Aduram and then returned to his house. 38:10 Jacob’s sons pressed hard on Esau’s sons in Mt. Seir. They bowed their necks to become servants for Jacob’s sons. 38:11 They sent to their father (to ask) whether they should make peace with them or kill them. 38:12 Jacob sent word to his sons to make peace. So they made peace with them and placed the yoke of servitude on them so that they should pay tribute to Jacob and his sons for all time. 38:13 They continued paying tribute to Jacob until the day that Jacob went down to Egypt. 38:14 The Edomites have not extricated themselves from the yoke of servitude which Jacob’s sons imposed on them until today.
Jubilees 50:1-13: Sabbath and chronology: Jubilees reproduces the Genesis stories about Joseph, his rise to power in Egypt, the famine in Canaan, and the relocation of the entire family in Egypt. After the time of that generation, the years pass and Moses comes on the scene. He eventually leads the people out of Egypt and into the wilderness. The last chapter of the book speaks about chronology and concludes with sabbath commands.
50:1 After this law I informed you about the sabbath days in the wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai. 50:2 On Mt. Sinai I told you about the sabbaths of the land and the years of jubilees in the sabbaths of the years, but its year we have not told you until the time when you enter the land which you will possess. 50:3 The land will observe its sabbaths when they live on it, and they are to know the year of the jubilee. 50:4 For this reason I have arranged for you the weeks of years and the jubilees–49 jubilees from the time of Adam until today, and one week and two years. It is still 40 years off (for learning the Lord’s commandments) until the time when he leads (them) across to the land of Canaan, after they have crossed the Jordan to the west of it. 50:5 The jubilees will pass by until Israel is pure of every sexual evil, impurity, contamination, sin, and error. Then they will live confidently in the entire land. They will no longer have any satan or any evil person. The land will be pure from that time until eternity. 50:6 I have now written for you the sabbath commandments and all the statutes of its laws. 50:7 You will work for six days, but on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it–you, your children, your male and female servants, all your cattle, or the foreigner who is with you. 50:8 The man who does any work on it is to die. Any man who desecrates this day; who lies with a woman; who says anything about work on it–that he is to set out on a trip on it, or about any selling or buying; who on it draws water which he had not prepared for himself on the sixth day; or who lifts any load to bring (it) outside his tent or his house is to die. 50:9 On the sabbath day do not do any work which you have not prepared for yourself on the sixth day so that you may eat, drink, rest, keep sabbath on this day from all work, and bless the Lord your God who has given you a festal day and a holy day. This day among their days is to be the day of the holy kingdom for all Israel throughout all time. 50:10 For great is the honor which the Lord has given Israel to eat, drink, and be filled on this festal day; and to rest on it from any work that belongs to the work of mankind except to burn incense and to bring before the Lord offerings and sacrifices for the days and the sabbaths. 50:11 Only this (kind of) work is to be done on the sabbath days in the sanctuary of the Lord your God in order that they may atone continuously for Israel with offerings from day to day as a memorial that is acceptable before the Lord; and in order that he may receive them forever, day by day, as you were ordered. 50:12 Any man who does work; who goes on a trip; who works farmland whether at his home or in any (other) place; who lights a fire; who rides any animal; who travels the sea by ship; any man who beats or kills anything; who slits the throat of an animal or bird; who catches either a wild animal, a bird, or a fish; who fasts and makes war on the sabbath day–50:13 a man who does any of these things on the sabbath day is to die, so that the Israelites may continue observing the sabbath in accord with the commandments for the sabbaths of the land as it was written in the tablets which he placed in my hands so that I could write for you the laws of each specific time in every division of its times. Here the words regarding the divisions of the times are completed.
10 Substantial parts of the first two selections come from the material published in J.C. VanderKam and J.T. Milik, “The First Jubilees Manuscript from Qumrall Cave 4: A Preliminary Publication,” Journal of Biblical Literature 110 (1991) 243-70.
If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at an institution whose library subscribes to Project Muse, you can read this piece and the full archives of the Missouri Review for free. Check this list to see if your library is a Project Muse subscriber.
Want to read more?Subscribe Today
SEE THE ISSUE
Jan 12 2015
Anita Loos: The Soubrette of Satire
“Work is more fun than fun.” ~ Noel Coward F. Scott Fitzgerald became the spokesman of the 1920s, but it could have been Anita Loos if she had been game
Dec 10 2012
The Thoroughly Modern World of Louise Brooks
This Found Text feature looks at the life of silent film icon, Louise Brooks. It is not currently available online.
Jul 24 2012
The King of the Underworld: The Invention of Jelly Roll Morton
The full text of this feature is not currently available online.