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The Book of Jasher

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  • James Trimm
    THE BOOK OF JASHER By James Scott Trimm JASHER AND THE BIBLE The Book of Jasher is one of the so-called Lost Books of the Bible. The Book of Jasher is twice
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2004
      James Scott Trimm


      The Book of Jasher is one of the so-called "Lost Books" of the Bible. The
      Book of Jasher is twice cited in the Tanak:

      "Is not this written in the Book of Jasher?" (Joshua 10:13)

      "Behold it is written in the Book of Jasher." (2Sam. 1:18)

      The term "Book of Jasher" is a bit misleading. This was not a book
      written by someone named "Jasher". In fact the word "Jasher" (Hebrew:
      Yashar) means "Upright" so that the Hebrew Sefer HaYashar is "The Upright
      Book". The definite article "Ha" tips us off that this is not a person's
      name but a modifier for the word "book".

      There are two references to Jasher in the Tanak:

      "And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had
      avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of
      Jasher? So the sun stood still i
      (Joshua 10:13)

      (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold,
      it is written in the book of Jasher.)
      (2 Samuel 1:18)

      From these two references in the Tanak there are several things we can
      learn about this mysterious book.

      From the usage in Joshua 10:13 we can determine:

      1. That Jasher contained the account of the prolonged day mentioned in
      Joshua 10.

      2. That Jasher was in circulation by the time the book of Joshua was
      written. Since Joshua was written prior to the death of Rahab, Jasher
      must have been written by that time as well.

      3. The Book of Jasher had enough credibility that Joshua would cite it as
      support for his assertion of the prolonged day.

      The usage in 2Sam. 1:18 tells us:

      4. The Book of Jasher supported an admonition to teach the son's of Judah
      "the bow".

      The identity of this lost book has been a matter of much speculation over
      the centuries.

      The ancient translations and paraphrases offer little help to us in
      identifying the Book of Jasher.

      The Greek LXX omits the entire phrase from Joshua 10:13 and translates the
      the phrase to mean "The Book of the Upright" in 2Sam. 1:18. The Latin
      Vulgate has in both places "Liber Justorum" "The Book of the Upright
      Ones". In the Targums the phrase is Paraphased as "The Book of the Law".

      The Aramaic Peshitta Tanak has "The Book of Praises" in Joshua 10:13 and
      "The Book of the Song" in 2Sam. 1:18. This may have resulted from a
      misreading of YUD-SHIN-RESH (Upright) as SHIN-YUD-RESH (Song). And some
      have speculated that the book in question was actually a book of songs
      which included reference to Joshua 10:13 in the lyrics of a song. This
      theory also takes "the bow" in 2Sam. 1:18 to be the name of a song.


      The Talmud discusses the identity of Jasher but also fails to offer us
      much real direction. In b.Avodah Zarah 25a Several theories for the
      identity of the Book of Jasher are proposed.

      Rabbi Chiyya ben Abba taught in the name of Rabbi Yochanan that it is "the
      book of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" who are called "righteous". He seems to
      refer to Genesis since he sites Gen. 49:8 as the reference to Judah being
      taught "the bow".

      Rabbi Eleazar identified Jasher as Deuteronomy based on Deut. 4:18. He
      cites Deut. 33:7 as the reference to Judah and archery.

      Rabbi Samuel ben Nachmani identified Jasher as the book of Judges based on
      Judges 17:6. He found the reference to Judah and archery in Judges 3:2 &

      None of these explanations offered by the Talmudic rabbis seek to explain
      how any of these biblical books could have been referenced by Joshua 10:13
      (especially Judges which was written AFTER Joshua). Could these Rabbis
      have used a text of Joshua which agreed with the LXX in omitting reference
      to the Book of Jasher? At any rate if we accept the reference to Jasher
      in Joshua 10:13 then we must reject these identifications of Jasher made
      in the Talmud.

      While the Rabbis of the Talmud seem to have lost knowledge of the identity
      of the Book of Jasher, its identity was known to earlier generations.


      In his own recounting of the event of the prolonged day of Joshua 10 the
      first century Jewish Roman historian Josephus identifies the Book of
      Jasher mentioned by Joshua as one of "the books laid up in the Temple"
      (Ant. 5:1:17). Thus the Book of Jasher was known to Josephus and was
      known to be among the books laid up in the Temple in the first century.


      There are at least three books today with the title "Book of
      Jasher"/"Sefer HaYashar".

      One of these is a Hebrew book which was never intended to be identified
      with the Sefer HaYashar or the Bible. (Remember Sefer HaYashar means "The
      Upright Book".

      Another "Book of Jasher" is a very bad English forgery published first in
      1751 and again in 1829. This version claims the be written by a man named
      "Jasher". This forgery opens with the phrase "Whilst it was the
      beginning, darkness overspread the face of nature." Reprints of this
      forgery still circulate today. If you have a copy of the Book of Jasher
      you will want to make sure it is not this one.

      The last Book of Jasher is the only one with any real potential to be the
      real "Book of Jasher". This "Book of Jasher" was published in Hebrew in
      Venice in 1625, translated into English by Moses Samuel *1* and published
      by Mordechai Noah *2* in New York in 1840 *3*. It was Moses Samuel who
      first divided the work into chapter and verse (being 81 chapters. A
      second edition of this translation was published in Salt Lake City by J.
      H. Parry & Company in 1887. Both editions have been reprinted and
      republished several times. In 1954 Bible Corporation of America in
      Philadelphia reprinted the 1840 edition. They also translated it from
      English into Italian, Spanish, French and German for publication in those
      languages as well. This Book of Jasher is the one we will be discussing.
      There has been some debate as to whether this Book of Jasher is the book
      mentioned in the Bible or just a Midrash which some have speculated
      originated in the 13th century. Certainly the book claims to be the same
      Book of Jasher mentioned in the Bible.


      The 1625 edition of Jasher has a Preface, which says in part
      (translated from the Hebrew):

      ...when the holy city Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus,
      all the military heads went in to rob and plunder, and
      among the officers of Titus was one whose name was Sidrus,
      who went in to search, and found in Jerusalem a house
      of great extent...

      According to the preface this Sidrus found a false wall in this
      house with a hidden room. In this room he found an old man hiding
      with provisions and many books including the Book of Jasher The old
      man found favor with Sidrus who took the old man and his books with

      The preface says "they went from city to city and from country to
      country until they reached Sevilia [a city in Spain]." At that time
      "Seville" was called "Hispalis" and was the capital of the Roman province
      of Hispalensis. The manuscript was donated to the Jewish college at
      Cordova, Spain.

      According to the 1625 edition of Jasher the first printed edition of
      the Book of Jasher was published in Naples Italy in 1552. However
      no copies of the 1552 edition are known to have survived. The
      earliest surviving Hebrew edition known is the 1625 edition.

      The Book of Jasher is a narrative beginning with the creation of man and
      ends with the entry of Israel into Canaan.

      The Book of Jasher passage related to Joshua 10:13 reads as follows:

      "And when they were smiting, the day was declining toward evening, and
      Joshua said in the sight of all the people, Sun, stand thou still upon
      Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Ajalon, until the nation shall have
      revenged itself upon its enemies.

      And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Joshua, and the sun stood still in
      the midst of the heavens, and it stood still six and thirty moments, and
      the moon also stood still and hastened not to go down a whole day."
      (Jasher 88:63-64)

      The Book of Jasher passage which relates to 2Sam. 1:18 involves Jacob's
      last words to his son Judah:

      "Only teach thy sons the bow and all weapons of war, in order that they
      may fight the battles of their brother who will rule over his enemies."
      (Jasher 56:9)

      This reads very similar to the midrash which gives these last words as:

      "Thou, my son, art stronger than all thy brethren,
      and from thy loins will kings arise. Teach thy children
      how they may protect themselves from enemies and evil-doers"

      It would seem that the author of Jasher did not create this account to fit
      with 2Sam. 1:18 since the same account occurs in the midrash (which itself
      may have been drawn from Jasher).

      Certainly many serious scholars have concluded that this Book of Jasher is
      authentic. The well known Hebraist and Rabbinic Scholar (and translator
      of the 1840 Book of Jasher) Moses Samuel wrote of Jasher:

      "...the book is, with the exception of some doubtful parts,
      a venerable monument of antiquity; and that, notwithstanding
      some few additions have been made to it in comparatively
      modern times, it still retains sufficient to prove it a copy
      of the book referred to in Joshua, ch. x, and 2 Samuel, ch. 1."
      - Moses Samuel - Hebraist and Rabbinic Scholar

      And my old friend and mentor, the late Dr. Cyrus Gordon (who was the
      world's leading Semitist until his death) said:

      "There can be little doubt that the book of Jasher was a
      national epic... The time is ripe for a fresh investigation
      of such genuine sources of Scripture, particularly against
      the background of the Dead Sea Scrolls."
      - Dr. Cyrus Gordon


      There is some evidence to suggest that the Book of Jasher was a sort of
      secular History of the Hebrews. Although the Book of Jasher acknowledges
      the hand of Elohim, its purpose seems to be largely historical. This
      would explain why Joshua would appeal to the Book of Jasher to support the
      fact that the prolonged day of Joshua 10 actually happened. Joshua was
      appealing to the "official record" and not to a theological book as-such.

      The Hebrew preface to Jasher records that when Ptolemy king of Egypt first
      sought from the Jews a copy of the Torah they sent him instead the Book of
      Jasher "for they could not give him the book of the Lord" but later he
      learned what they had done and they then provided for him the LXX. Thus
      it seems that the Book of Jasher was viewed as an official history but not
      as sacred inspired Scripture.
      Thus the Book of Jasher should not be rejected as mere fiction, neither
      should it be mistaken for inspired Scripture. The Book of Jasher was an
      official historical record of events from the creation of Adam to the
      entry of Israel into the promised Land. At the very least we have in
      Jasher an important collection of Jewish legends related to this time


      I am working on a new edition of the "Book of Jasher". This new edition
      will be a new revised, more accurate translation of the Book of Jasher. It
      will be a Messianic, Sacred Name edition. Most importantly it will be an
      Interlinear edition which will include the Hebrew.

      Each Hebrew word will have the corresponding English word just below
      it and the Strong's word number for that word just above it.

      This will allow everyone, whether they know Hebrew or not, to use
      this Book of Jasher with the many books now keyed to Strong's word

      Books like:

      Strong's Exhaustive Concordance

      Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament

      The Theological Wordbook to the Old Testament

      The New Englishman's Hebrew Concordance and Lexicon

      The New Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon

      This will be accompanied by a flowing English text.

      We will also include the Hebrew preface to the 1625 translation
      along with an English translation along with other important

      This is one of the many important projects we are working on here at

      Of course we are always seeking donations for the printing of this
      and other editions as well as other materials and to fund the work
      of SANJ and research we are doing in general.

      SANJ can now take credit cards through phone in orders: 817-284-7039
      or you can mail it in as well:
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      James Scott Trimm


      *1* For info on Moses Samuel a well known Hebraist and scholar of Rabbinic
      Literature of his time see:

      *2* For info on Mordechai Noah a prominant american Jew of his time see:

      *3* This translation is on the internet at:
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