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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Jannes And Jambres


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Names of two legendary wizards of Pharaoh "who withstood Moses" (II Tim. 3:8) by imitating "with their enchantments" the works of Moses and Aaron, though they were defeated (Exodus 7:11 , 8:7 ). According to rabbinical tradition they were the two chiefs of the magicians at the court of Pharaoh who foretold the birth of Moses, "the destroyer of the land of Egypt," thereby causing the cruel edicts of Pharaoh (Soṭ ah 11a Sanh. 106a). They said to Moses when he performed his miracles with the water and the rod: "Dost thou wish to introduce magic into Egypt, the native land of the magic art?" (Men. 85a). According to Midrash Yelammedenu, Ki Tissa (Exodus 32 ), they were among "the mixed multitude that went up with Israel from Egypt" (Exodus 12:38 ) and aided in the making of the golden calf. They were the "two youths" (A. and R. V. "servants") that accompanied Balaam on his travels when commissioned to curse Israel (Targ. i. to Numbers 22:22 ). They flew up into the air before the sword of Phinehas and made themselves invisible, until, by the power of the Ineffable Name, they were caught and slain (Zohar, Balaḳ , 194 comp. Targ. Yer. to Numbers 31:8 ).

Numenius the Pythagorean, quoted by Eusebius ("Præ paratio Evangelica," 9:8), relates after Artapanus (see Freudenthal, "Alexander Polyhistor," 1875, p. 173) that "Jannes and Jambres, the most powerful Egyptian magicians, dispersed the plagues which Moses (Musæ us) had brought upon Egypt." In the third century the tomb of Jannes and Jambres was shown in Egypt Christian saints knew it as a place where the evil demons could be consulted for magic purposes (see the story of Macarius in Palladius, "Historia Lausiaca" Fabricius, "Codex Pseudepigraphus Vet. Test." 1:181, 2:106-111). Jannes and Jambres are the subjects of many legendary tales, one of which is presented in a Greek work entitled "Pœ nitentia Jannis et Mambre," counted among the Apocrypha in Pope Gelasius' "Decretum," and referred to by Origen (to Matthew 27:9 ). These legends seem to have been known also to such pagan writers as Pliny and Apuleius Pliny ("Historia Naturalis," 31:11) mentions Moses, Jannes, and Jotape (Rotape?) among the Jewish magicians, and Apuleius ("Apologia," xc.) mentions Moses and Jannes among the world's great magicians.

Regarding the names, various etymologies have been proposed. Ewald ("Gesch." i., pt. 2:128), Lauth ("Moses der Hebrä er," p. 77), and Freudenthal (l.c. ) believe them to have been derived from the Egyptian Steiner (Schenkel, "Bibel-Lexicon") attempts to find for them a Hebrew origin Geiger ("Urschrift," p. 474) considers the sons of Jambri as Amorites (comp. I Macc. 9:36 see Kohut, "Aruch Completum"). Jastrow ("Dict.") and Levy ("Neuhebr. Wö rterb.") each offer equally untenable explanations. The fact that a demon belonging to the class of Lilith, or a sorceress named Yoḥ ane bat Reṭ ibi (), was greatly dreaded in Talmudical times (Soṭ ah 22a), and that Abraham's concubine Keturah (believed to have been familiar with magic) was also known as "Yoḥ ane" (Zeb. 62b but see Bacher, "Ag. Tan." 1:357 2d ed., p. 350), seems to throw some light upon the names "Jannes" and "Jotape" in Pliny while the name "Mambre" appears to be correctly identified with (= "the rebel" Levy, l.c. ).

Bibliography : Schü rer, Gesch. 3:292 et seq. , where all the literature to date is given to this may now be added Israel Abrahams, in Cheyne, Encyc. Bibl. K.

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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Jannes And Jambres'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tje/j/jannes-and-jambres.html. 1901.

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