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Jubilees, Book of
The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Midrashic commentary on the Book of Genesis and on part of the Book of Exodus, in the form of an apocalypse, containing the views, legends, and religious practises of the most rigid Pharisaic (or Hasidæan) school of the time of John Hyrcanus, in whose reign it was written, between 135 and 105 B.C. Originally composed in Hebrew, the book was translated into Greek (in which form it was known to the Church Fathers down to the sixth century), and from Greek into Latin and Ethiopic. The Latin version, published first by Ceriani (in "Monumenta Sacra et Profana," Fasc. I., 1861), later by Rönsch ("Das Buch der Jubiläen Unter Beifügung der Lateinischen Fragmente," 1874), is incomplete. The Ethiopic version was published by Dillmann in 1859; it was translated into German by him in Ewald's "Jahrbücher der Biblischen Wissenschaft," 1850-51, and then by Littmann in Kautzsch's "Apocryphen und Pseudepigraphen," 2:1900; the Ethiopic text was published in revised form by Charles in 1895, and was translated by him into English in the "Jewish Quarterly Review," 1893-95; in 1902 it appeared separately in an edition rendered valuable by extensive notes. Epstein is inclined to believe ("R. E. J." 21:80 et seq., 22:1 et seq.) that though the work was scarcely known in Talmudic times, many haggadot peculiar to the Book of Jubilees found their echo in Midrash Tadshe and Pirḳe R. Eli'ezer. Possibly Jellinek is nearer the truth in claiming an Essene origin for the book ("B. H." 3:9 et seq.); whereas Beer ("Das Buch der Jubiläen und Sein Verhältniss zu den Midraschim," 1856; "Noch ein Wort über das Buch der Jubiläen," 1857), with arguments that are extensive and erudite but not convincing, ascribes it to a Samaritan author. Singer ("Das Buch der Jubiläen oder die Leptogenesis," 1898), following a few suggestions of Rönsch, endeavors to prove that the book was written by a Judæo-Christian, a contemporary of Paul, for the purpose of discrediting the latter's doctrine of the abrogation of the Law. Charles, however, in the notes to his translation, has established beyond doubt the origin and character of the work, and, therefore, his views are, in the main, here followed.
Chronological System of Jubilees.
The author of the Book of Jubilees rewrote the history of the Protoplasts, of the Patriarchs, and of the Exodus with the view of inculcating certain principles that found no acceptance afterward in the rabbinical schools; foremost among these are the rules concerning the regulation of the calendar and the festivals. In place of the intercalated calendar, which he condemns in the strongest terms, he proposes a solar calendar consisting of a civil year of 12 months, 8 of 30 days and 4 of 31 days, and an ecclesiastical year of 13 months of 28 days each, so as to make all festivals, except the Day of Atonement, fall on Sunday, and make the Feast of Weeks fall on the 15th of Siwan (Book of Jubilees, 1:1,26; 6:22 et seq., 38; 49:14; see Epstein in "R. E J." 22:10 et seq.; Charles, "The Book of Jubilees," pp. 55 et seq.). His leading idea seems to be that the divine plan of the Messianic kingdom rests upon the exact calculation of the week, the common year, and the "Jubilee" year (e., the last year of a cycle of 7 X 7, or 49 years), each being based upon the sacred number seven, and the entire history of Israel and the world being divided into "jubilee" periods (see 6:35; comp. Leviticus 26:34-43 and Targ. Yer. ad loc.; 'Ar. 10b; Seder 'Olam R.; Assumptio Mosis, 1:2; "Samaritan Chronicle," in "Journal Asiatique," 1869, pp. 421 et seq.). As in the Book of Enoch (47:3, 81:1, 103:2) and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Levi, 5; Asher, 2:5), every event, every statute of the Law, and every custom is, for the author, written down on the tablets of heaven (Jubilees, 3:10,31; 6:17; 23:32; 28:6; 30:9; et al.); thus social custom and human destiny are alike determined by God's decree. Josephus, "Ant." 13:5, § 9, calls this Ἑμαρμένη.
Character and Object.
The Book of Jubilees, presenting itself as "the history of the division of the days of the Law, of the events of the years, the year-weeks, and the jubilees of the world" (1:1,26,29; 13), claims to be a revelation of God to Moses, given through the Angel of the Presence (1:27-29 [probably Michael]) in addition to the written Law received by Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:12); and, while the written Law was to be imparted to all, this was to be the "Cabala," the secret tradition entrusted only to the saints of each generation, to Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, and Shem (ch. 7:38, 10:14, 21:10), then to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Levi, and finally to the priests and scribes of the latter times (ch. 12:27, 21:10, 25:7, 39:6, 45:16).
Obviously, the chief object of the work is to exalt the Law (and Hasidæan practise) as divinely ordained and fixed from eternity, to extol the institutions of the Sabbath and circumcision as heavenly signs distinguishing Israel from the rest of the nations, and, finally, to draw the sharpest possible lines of demarcation between Israel and the Gentiles—in striking contrast to the practise of the Hellenist party. As does the Book of Chronicles regarding the kings of Judah, the Book of Jubilees omits every Biblical narrative which suggests any blemish in the Patriarchs (see Charles, c. Introduction, p. ), and transfers to Satan and his hosts those acts of God which seem unworthy of Him—such as the tempting of Abraham, the attempt on Moses' life, the hardening of the heart of Pharaoh, and the slaying of the first-born (ch. 17:16; 48:2,17; 49:2). The Patriarchs are represented as saintly exemplars of religion and of filial affection. Abraham knew God from his youth, and did not leave his father, Terah, without his consent and blessing (ch. 11:16 et seq.; 12:1,28-31); he married Keturah only after Hagar's death (ch. 19:11). Jacob, likewise,waited for Isaac's blessing and is represented as being the spiritual heir to Abraham and prompted in all his doings by filial piety and regard (ch. 22:10, 25:4, 27:9, 29:15, 35:9-12); nor does he directly deceive his blind father ("I am thy son," 36:13 [the word "Esau" being omitted]).
The Twenty-two Works of Creation.
Israel, the people, stands in closest relation to God, the Father, the Israelites being His beloved children (ch. 1:24 et seq., 19:29). While all other nations are subject to angels or spirits appointed by Him as the Ruler of the world, Israel is subject only to God (comp. LXX. and Targ. Yer. to Deuteronomy 32:8). As a sign of its union with God, both the Sabbath and circumcision have been given to it, privileges which it shares with the angels (ch. 2:18-21, 15:26-27: "The two highest angelic orders have been created thus from the day of their creation"; comp. the passage concerning Adam and the rest of the world's saints [fifteen in number] having been born circumcised, derived from Genesis 1:27—"God created man in his own image" [Ab. R. N. ed. Schechter, p. 153]). Upon Jacob, as the end, the whole Creation is centered (ch. 2:23, 19:24-25), and the world's renewal is effected through the Messianic kingdom in Jerusalem (ch. 1:29, 4:26). Accordingly, the twenty-two works of the six days of Creation are enumerated (ch. 2:2-22): On the first day—heaven, earth, water, the spirits, the abyss, darkness, and light; on the second—the firmament; on the third—the land, the seas, vegetation, and paradise; on the fourth—sun, moon, and stars; on the fifth—the sea-monsters (Behemoth and Leviathan, "the first things of flesh created by His hands"), the fish, and the birds; on the sixth—the wild and the tame animals, the creeping things, and man; these twenty-two works correspond to the twenty-two generations from Adam to Jacob, as well as to the twenty-two letters of the alphabet and the twenty-two books of Holy Scripture (ch. 2:23; comp. Midr. Tadshe; Epstein, "Mi-Ḳadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim," 1887, p.; and Charles, c. pp. 11, 18).
Especially significant is it that, writing in a time when the Abrahamic rite was spurned by Jews who desired to be one in the arena with the Greeks (ch. 15:33-34; I Macc. 1:13-15; "Ant." 12:5, § 1; Assumptio Mosis, 8:3; Abot 3:11), the Hasidæan author represents circumcision as ordained in heaven from the beginning of Creation (ch. 15:25-27), as well as the law regarding the covering of the loins ("gillui 'erwah") as given to Adam and prescribed on the heavenly tables (ch. 3:31: "not as the Gentiles uncover themselves"). The Sabbath that comes at the close of the twenty-two generations (ch. 2:23) was also ordained in heaven, and was, therefore, given to no other nation but Israel, to celebrate as it is celebrated by the angels in heaven (ch. 2:30-31; comp. Sanh. 58b).
Separation from the Gentiles ("perishut" = ἀμιξία, II Macc. 14:38) is rendered the fundamental principle of Jewish law and custom. Israel is forbidden to eat, or associate, or intermarry with them, because "they sacrifice to the dead, worship evil spirits, and eat over the graves; because all their ways are unclean, and they will be destroyed from the earth, nor will they be saved on the Day of Judgment" (ch. 22:16-22, 30:7-10). Especially singled out as cursed and doomed forever in the heavenly tables are those nations with which the Jews came into contact in the time of the Maccabees: the Philistines (ch. 24:28-32; comp. I Macc. 5:68; 10:60,84,89; 11:60-62; 16:10); the Idumeans or the sons of Esau (ch. 26:34, 38:14; comp. "Ant." 13:9, § 1; 15, § 4); the Amorites (ch. 29:11, 34:2-9; comp. the notes on Charles, c. pp. 200 et seq.). The motive of the writer, however, is not, as Charles says (c. Introduction, p. ), "hatred and contempt of the Gentiles," but is expressed in the words of the Rabbis ('Ab. Zarah 2b): "God saw that the Gentiles would not observe the Noachian laws, wherefore He outlawed them."
The Noachian Laws.
According to Jubilees, 7:20-29 (comp. Laws, Noachian), Noah enjoined his sons to observe justice, to cover the shame of their flesh, to bless their Creator, to honor father and mother, to love their neighbors, and to refrain from fornication, uncleanness, and all iniquity, for because of these last three things the Flood came upon the earth. Possibly the seven Noachian laws enumerated in Sanh. 56a and Tosef., 'Ab. Zarah, 8:4, were partly misunderstood by the Greek translator. These laws prohibit the following: (1) injustice; (2) blasphemy against God ("birkat ha-shem," a rabbinical euphemism—"blessing of God" instead of "blasphemy"); (3) incest ("gillui 'erwah"); (4) idolatry; (5) murder (comp. Gen. R. 31:6: "ḥamas" [violence] in Genesis 6:11 includes murder, idolatry, and incest; comp. Tanna debe Eliyahu Zuṭa ); (6) eating flesh cut from living animals (probably included in the Biblical prohibition in Genesis 9:4 against eating flesh from which the blood has not been drained; comp. Jubilees, 7:29); (7) stealing. (For the statement that the men of the Flood were guilty of fornication see Gen. R.; and in regard to their going about uncovered see Yalḳ., Job, 24:7.) According to the author, Canaan, the son of Ham, seized by violence the land of Palestine, which belonged, by lot and by mutual agreement sealed by oath, to the sons of Shem; therefore Canaan was cursed by his father, Ham, and by his brothers Cush and Mizraim (ch. 10:29-34), and the Israelites in conquering the land of Canaan simply reclaimed their inheritance. The Garden of Eden, as the dwelling-place of the Lord, fell to Shem. (ch. 8:18-19, with reference to Genesis 9:26-27), and the rest of the earth was divided by Noah among his three sons for generations to come (ch. -).
The author aims to trace all religious and social institutions and customs to the most ancient times, in order to give them the highest possible sanction; it may often be inferred that certain practises he mentions were observed in his own time. Thus the law distinguishing between the male and the female in regard to the days of uncleanness for a woman after the birth of a child (Leviticus 12:2-5) is attributed to the fact that Adam was created in the first week and brought into Eden on the fortieth day, whereas Eve was created in the second week and brought into Eden on the eightieth day (ch. 3:8-14; comp. Midr. Tadshe; Jellinek, "B. H." 3:178).When Adam went forth from Eden with his nakedness covered, he offered incense to God as a thank-offering at the rising of the sun (obviously a custom practised by the parents when their child thus left the state of infancy).
Hebrew the Language of Heaven.
Until Adam left paradise, all creatures, both animals and man, spoke Hebrew, the language of heaven (ch. 3:28; comp. Targ. Yer. to Genesis 11:1, and Shab. 12b). After the overthrow of the Tower of Babel, Hebrew was forgotten on earth until Abraham was taught it again by the angels (ch. 12:25-26). After the murder by Cain, it was announced and written down on the heavenly tables that both he that committed murder, and he that witnessed it and did not declare it before the tribunal of justice for punishment, should be cursed; wherefore even the angels must declare every sin committed by man (ch. 4:5-6). Enoch, who was the first man initiated by the angels into the art of writing, and who accordingly wrote down all the secrets of astronomy, of chronology, and of the world's epochs to the end of time, testified against the angels that fell by lusting after the daughters of men; and ever since he was taken to heaven he has been recording the good deeds and the sins of men, and will continue to record them until the Judgment Day (ch. 4:21-24; comp. Lev. R. 34:9). Thus all the iniquities of men from the time of the Flood, and all that is done in heaven, earth, or Sheol, are written on the tablets of heaven for final judgment on the Last Day. But in regard to Israel, and Israel only, it was ordained that they should obtain pardon by repenting of their sins once each year—on the Day of Atonement (ch. 5:13-18).
The secret of astrology, divulged by the Heavenly Watchers to men and carved by the latter on rocks, was deciphered by Kainan the son of Arphaxad, whom his father had taught the art of writing (ch. 8:2-4 ["Nahor" in ch. 11:8]; comp. "Ant." 1:2, § 3). The distribution of land by lots, that is, by "writings taken out of the bosom," is ascribed to Noah (ch. 8:11; comp. Proverbs 16:33); so also is the book on healing herbs and various kinds of medicine for the treatment of sickness, diseases being caused by evil spirits, the host of Satan (ch. 10:7-14; comp. Jellinek, "B. H." , pp. and 155 et seq.). To marry the daughter of the father's brother or sister, or some other kinswoman, while not enjoined by a law, at least seems to be recommended, to judge from the fact that all the pious men mentioned in the Book of Jubilees are represented as following the practise (ch. 4:15 et seq., 11:7, et al.; comp. Tobit 4:12; Judith 8:1; Gen. R.; "J. Q. R." 5:406). The command not to give the younger daughter in marriage before the elder is declared to be written on the heavenly tables (ch. 28:6; comp. Genesis 29:26), as is also the command not to give one's daughter to a Gentile (ch. 30:9) or to commit incest (ch. 33:10).
The Festive Seasons of the Year.
The festive seasons of the year, with the rites connected therewith, are represented as having been instituted either by Noah or by the Patriarchs, though they were written from the beginning in the heavenly tables (ch. 6:17,31,35). There are, first of all, the new moons, not of every month, since the lunar year is denounced by the author, but of the four "teḳufot," or seasons of the solar year, namely, the vernal equinox—the 1st of Nisan; the summer solstice—the 1st of Tammuz; the autumn equinox—the 1st of Tishri; the winter solstice—the 1st of Shebaṭ (ch. 6:23-25; comp. 5:29-30, 13:8, 24:22; comp. Enoch, 85:2, and the four New-Year's days of the year in R. H. 1:1: the 1st of Nisan, of Elul [perhaps originally Tammuz?], of Tishri, and of Shebaṭ.). "On the 1st of Tishri, Abraham observed the stars, to forecast the rains of the coming seasons" (ch. 12:16; comp. Lev. R. 20:4 with regard to the Day of Atonement). On the 1st of Siwan, after the Flood had subsided, Noah made atonement for the earth by offering a kid (comp. Numbers 28:15, 35:33), and other kinds of beasts, with the libation of wine and oil and with frankincense (ch. 6:1-3). Then God made a double covenant with him—first, that blood should no longer be eaten nor the blood of man shed, while the blood of animals should be offered twice daily on the altar for the pardon of men's sins (ch. 6:4-16; comp. Genesis 9:4-6; Numbers 28:3-8); secondly, that the seasons and festivals of the year should be fixed according to the course of the sun (ch. 6:23-38; comp. Genesis 8:22).
Feast of Weeks.
But it is especially upon the right observance of the Feast of Weeks that the Book of Jubilees lays stress, following the Sadducean practise in insisting that it be celebrated each year on the first day of the week in literal conformity with the words "the morrow after Sabbath" (ch. 6:17-22; see Leviticus 23:15-16). It was to take place on the 15th of Siwan. It was celebrated in heaven from the days of Creation until God ordained it to Noah. On that day God made the covenant with Abraham between pieces of sacrificial beasts, as mentioned in Genesis 15, while Abraham offered the first-fruits of his tillage with other sacrifices (ch. 14:10-20, 15:1-9; see Charles, c. p. 106, notes). Celebrated, also, by Abraham, as the Feast of the Covenant of Circumcision (ch. 15:3), and by Isaac (who was born on the 15th of Siwan; ch. 16:13) and Jacob (ch. 22:1, 29:6, 44:3), the Feast of Weeks was renewed by Moses for all generations as the Feast of the Covenant of Sinai (ch. 6:19).
Tabernacles and Atonement.
The Feast of Tabernacles was first celebrated by Abraham, in booths; it was maintained during seven days, and each day he brought seven rams, seven he-goats, seven kids, and seven sheep, with seven kinds of fragrant substances, rejoicing in the company of his own household and allowing no stranger nor any uncircumcised to partake of his feast; and he made each day seven circuits around the altar, carrying branches of palm-trees and the fruit of golden trees in his hand (thus the Israelites afterward, as evidently in the time of the author of Jubilees, celebrated the feast, wearing wreaths upon their heads; ch. 16:1-31; comp. Leviticus 23:39-42; but see Suk. 4:5, and CROWN). Jacob, too, celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles in great pomp and with many sacrifices (ch. 32:4); and after the 22d of Tishri had become for him a day of glad tidings, he added the eighth day, Ḥag ha-'Aẓeret (32:16-29).The Book of Jubilees states also that the Day of Atonement originated in the time of the Patriarchs. It was on the 10th of Tishri that the sons of Jacob sold their brother Joseph and deceived their father by sending him Joseph's coat stained with the blood of a kid; and both Bilhah and Dinah died of grief on hearing of the death of Joseph, so that Jacob mourned three deaths. Thenceforth it was ordained that the children of Israel should afflict themselves on this day each year and bring a young goat as an atoning sacrifice for their sins (ch. 34:12-19).
Regarding the Passover night, called "lel shimmurim" = "the night of watching" or "of protection" (Exodus 12:42 [A. V., incorrectly, "a night to be much observed"]), it is stated (ch. 48:15, 49:5; comp. Mek. to Exodus 12:42) that on that night, when all the powers of Satan (Mastema) had been let loose to slay the Egyptians, the angels of heaven bound him (Mastema) and kept him imprisoned until the Israelites reached the Red Sea, in order that he might not accuse them before God for having taken the golden and silver vessels of the Egyptians as payment for their servitude. That night "all Israel was engaged in eating the Pesaḥ and in drinking wine while praising and blessing the Lord, the God of their fathers," therein anticipating the Seder evening of later times, which must have been celebrated in this manner in the time of the author. The meaning of "between the evenings" (Exodus 12:6) is stated to be "from the third part of the day to the third part of the night" (ch. 49:9-12; but comp. Pes. 5:1, and Josephus, "B. J." 6:9, § 3).
Most striking and valuable, as throwing light on ancient practise, are the observations concerning the Sabbath (ch. 49:8-13; comp. 2:29-30). Doing any of the following things on the Sabbath entails the penalty of death: traveling, by land or sea; buying or selling; drawing water; carrying burdens out of the house; killing or striking; snaring beasts, birds, or fish; fasting or making war; having marital intercourse. All these rigid ordinances of Jubilees (comp. Sanh. 46a) have been observed by the Falashas (see the work on the Sabbath translated by Halévy, "Taazaze Sanbat," in "Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes," p. 137, Paris, 1902), the Samaritans (De Sacy, "Notices et Extraits," 12:175), and the Karaites (see Singer, c. pp. 198-199; Charles, c. p. 259). The origin of the saying of grace after meals is ascribed to Abraham (ch. 16:26) and to Jacob (ch. 45:5).
The Date of the Book.
While the angelology and demonology, as well as other features, of the book point to the same date as that of the Book of Enoch and of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, there are certain facts presented by the book which warrant the assertion, made by Charles (c. Introduction, pp. -), that it was written under John Hyrcanus. It refers to the subjection of the Idumeans (Esau) to the Jewish people as still existing (ch. 38:14), and to Hellenistic Jews endeavoring to pass as heathen in the athletic games (ch. 3:30-31, 15:33-34). The hatred toward the Gentiles and the bitter opposition to intermarriage with them, the legend of the war with the Amorites, Idumeans, and Philistines (ch. 30:7-17, 34:1-9, -), and the warlike spirit pervading the book (ch. 23:12-31), indicate the impression of the great events of the Maccabean wars. On the other hand, the haggadic amplifications and, at times, alterations of the Biblical history, as in the narrative of the war with the Shechemites (ch. ) and the attachment of the death-penalty to infringements of Sabbatical laws, conform to the halakah of the austere Ḥasidim, and are explicable only upon the assumption that they emanated not from the late rabbinical schools, but from the leaders of the ancient Pharisees or Scribes.
Especially noteworthy in this connection is the reservation of the lofty position of high priest and ruler to the tribe of Levi, in reward for its destruction of Shechem (ch. 30:14-17, 32:1-3). The Levites are represented as the keepers of the sacred books, and of the secret lore entrusted to them by the saints from of yore (ch. 45:16; comp. 10:4). This indicates that the priests and Levites still included among themselves, as in the days of the author of the Book of Chronicles, the men of learning, the masters of the schools, and that these positions were not filled by men from among the people, as was the case in the time of Shammai and Hillel. Nor is the fact to be overlooked that the calendric system proposed by the author of the Book of Jubilees (comp. Enoch, -) suggests a time when the calendar and the entire religious life of the Jews was as yet in an unsettled condition, and not fixed by rabbinical authorities.
- Charles, The Book of Jubilees, London, 1902 (where the entire literature is given);
- Littmann, Das Buch der Jubiläen, in Kautzsch, Apokryphen;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., 3:274.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Jubilees, Book of'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​j/jubilees-book-of.html. 1901.