I've been continuing to plough my way through Antiquities of the Jews, though I've not had time to post about it until now.
One of the things which strikes me is the way Josephus deliberately chose not to simply provide a translation of the Torah (Pentateuch) for the opening section of his history, but paraphrases quite a lot. Sometimes this is (it strikes me) to improve the standing of the Jews in the eyes of his Roman audience; for example, the story of Judah and Tamar is missed out, and the episode of the Golden Calf is reduced to the people merely becoming despondent that Moses has either been killed by a wild animal, or taken up to G-d. (Amusingly, he reports that the Song at the Sea was delivered in hexameter.) But sometimes he fleshes the narrative out rather a lot.
For example, where the Bible has the following (which you don't need to read unless you want to):
Josephus gives us this (which you certainly don't need to read unless you want to):
Genesis 44:18-44:34 בראשית מד יח-מד לד Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh. My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother? And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him. And we said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father: for if he should leave his father, his father would die. And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more. And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. And our father said, Go again, and buy us a little food. And we said, We cannot go down: if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down: for we may not see the man's face, except our youngest brother be with us. And thy servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my wife bare me two sons: And the one went out from me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I saw him not since: And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life; It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave. For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father for ever. Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I see the evil that shall come on my father. וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה וַיֹּאמֶר בִּי אֲדֹנִי יְדַבֶּר־נָא עַבְדְּךָ דָבָר בְּאָזְנֵי אֲדֹנִי וְאַל־יִחַר אַפְּךָ בְּעַבְדֶּךָ כִּי כָמוֹךָ כְּפַרְעֹה׃ אֲדֹנִי שָׁאַל אֶת־עֲבָדָיו לֵאמֹר הֲיֵשׁ־לָכֶם אָב אוֹ-אָח׃ וַנֹּאמֶר אֶל־אֲדֹנִי יֶשׁ־לָנוּ אָב זָקֵן וְיֶלֶד זְקֻנִים קָטָן וְאָחִיו מֵת וַיִּוָּתֵר הוּא לְבַדּוֹ לְאִמּוֹ וְאָבִיו אֲהֵבוֹ׃ וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל־עֲבָדֶיךָ הוֹרִדֻהוּ אֵלָי וְאָשִׂימָה עֵינִי עָלָיו׃ וַנֹּאמֶר אֶל־אֲדֹנִי לֹא־יוּכַל הַנַּעַר לַעֲזֹב אֶת־אָבִיו וְעָזַב אֶת־אָבִיו וָמֵת׃ וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל־עֲבָדֶיךָ אִם־לֹא יֵרֵד אֲחִיכֶם הַקָּטֹן אִתְּכֶם לֹא תֹסִפוּן לִרְאוֹת פָּנָי׃ וַיְהִי כִּי עָלִינוּ אֶל־עַבְדְּךָ אָבִי וַנַּגֶּד־לוֹ אֵת דִּבְרֵי אֲדֹנִי׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אָבִינוּ שֻׁבוּ שִׁבְרוּ־לָנוּ מְעַט־אֹכֶל׃ וַנֹּאמֶר לֹא נוּכַל לָרֶדֶת אִם־יֵשׁ אָחִינוּ הַקָּטֹן אִתָּנוּ וְיָרַדְנוּ כִּי־לֹא נוּכַל לִרְאוֹת פְּנֵי הָאִישׁ וְאָחִינוּ הַקָּטֹן אֵינֶנּוּ אִתָּנוּ׃ וַיֹּאמֶר עַבְדְּךָ אָבִי אֵלֵינוּ אַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם כִּי שְׁנַיִם יָלְדָה־לִּי אִשְׁתִּי׃ וַיֵּצֵא הָאֶחָד מֵאִתִּי וָאֹמַר אַךְ טָרֹף טֹרָף וְלֹא רְאִיתִיו עַד־הֵנָּה׃ וּלְקַחְתֶּם גַּם־אֶת־זֶה מֵעִם פָּנַי וְקָרָהוּ אָסוֹן וְהוֹרַדְתֶּם אֶת־שֵׂיבָתִי בְּרָעָה שְׁאֹלָה׃ וְעַתָּה כְּבֹאִי אֶל־עַבְדְּךָ אָבִי וְהַנַּעַר אֵינֶנּוּ אִתָּנוּ וְנַפְשׁוֹ קְשׁוּרָה בְנַפְשׁוֹ׃ וְהָיָה כִּרְאוֹתוֹ כִּי־אֵין הַנַּעַר וָמֵת וְהוֹרִידוּ עֲבָדֶיךָ אֶת־שֵׂיבַת עַבְדְּךָ אָבִינוּ בְּיָגוֹן שְׁאֹלָה׃ כִּי עַבְדְּךָ עָרַב אֶת־הַנַּעַר מֵעִם אָבִי לֵאמֹר אִם־לֹא אֲבִיאֶנּוּ אֵלֶיךָ וְחָטָאתִי לְאָבִי כָּל־הַיָּמִים׃ וְעַתָּה יֵשֶׁב־נָא עַבְדְּךָ תַּחַת הַנַּעַר עֶבֶד לַאדֹנִי וְהַנַּעַר יַעַל עִם־אֶחָיו׃ כִּי־אֵיךְ אֶעֱלֶה אֶל־אָבִי וְהַנַּעַר אֵינֶנּוּ אִתִּי פֶּן אֶרְאֶה בָרָע אֲשֶׁר יִמְצָא אֶת־אָבִי׃
But Judas, who had persuaded their father to send the lad from him, being otherwise also a very bold and active man, determined to hazard himself for the preservation of his brother. "It is true," said he, "O governor, that we have been very wicked with regard to thee, and on that account deserved punishment; even all of us may justly be punished, although the theft were not committed by all, but only by one of us, and he the youngest also; but yet there remains some hope for us, who otherwise must be under despair on his account, and this from thy goodness, which promises us a deliverance out of our present danger. And now I beg thou wilt not look at us, or at that great crime we have been guilty of, but at thy own excellent nature, and take advice of thine own virtue, instead of that wrath thou hast against us; which passion those that otherwise are of lower character indulge, as they do their strength, and that not only on great, but also on very trifling occasions. Overcome, sir, that passion, and be not subdued by it, nor suffer it to slay those that do not otherwise presume upon their own safety, but are desirous to accept of it from thee; for this is not the first time that thou wilt bestow it on us, but before, when we came to buy corn, thou affordedst us great plenty of food, and gavest us leave to carry so much home to our family as has preserved them from perishing by famine. Nor is there any difference between not overlooking men that were perishing for want of necessaries, and not punishing those that seem to be offenders, and have been so unfortunate as to lose the advantage of that glorious benefaction which they received from thee. This will be an instance of equal favor, though bestowed after a different manner; for thou wilt save those this way whom thou didst feed the other; and thou wilt hereby preserve alive, by thy own bounty, those souls which thou didst not suffer to be distressed by famine, it being indeed at once a wonderful and a great thing to sustain our lives by corn, and to bestow on us that pardon, whereby, now we are distressed, we may continue those lives. And I am ready to suppose that God is willing to afford thee this opportunity of showing thy virtuous disposition, by bringing us into this calamity, that it may appear thou canst forgive the injuries that are done to thyself, and mayst be esteemed kind to others, besides those who, on other accounts, stand in need of thy assistance; since it is indeed a right thing to do well to those who are in distress for want of food, but still a more glorious thing to save those who deserve to be punished, when it is on account of heinous offenses against thyself; for if it be a thing deserving commendation to forgive such as have been guilty of small offenses, that tend to a person's loss, and this be praiseworthy in him that overlooks such offenses, to restrain a man's passion as to crimes which are capital to the guilty, is to be like the most excellent nature of God himself. And truly, as for myself, had it not been that we had a father, who had discovered, on occasion of the death of Joseph, how miserably he is always afflicted at the loss of his sons, I had not made any words on account of the saving of our own lives; I mean, any further than as that would be an excellent character for thyself, to preserve even those that would have nobody to lament them when they were dead, but we would have yielded ourselves up to suffer whatsoever thou pleasedst; but now (for we do not plead for mercy to ourselves, though indeed, if we die, it will be while we are young, and before we have had the enjoyment of life) have regard to our father, and take pity of his old age, on whose account it is that we make these supplications to thee. We beg thou wilt give us those lives which this wickedness of ours has rendered obnoxious to thy punishment; and this for his sake who is not himself wicked, nor does his being our father make us wicked. He is a good man, and not worthy to have such trials of his patience; and now, we are absent, he is afflicted with care for us. But if he hear of our deaths, and what was the cause of it, he will on that account die an immature death; and the reproachful manner of our ruin will hasten his end, and will directly kill him; nay, will bring him to a miserable death, while he will make haste to rid himself out of the world, and bring himself to a state of insensibility, before the sad story of our end come abroad into the rest of the world. Consider these things in this manner, although our wickedness does now provoke thee with a just desire of punishing that wickedness, and forgive it for our father's sake; and let thy commiseration of him weigh more with thee than our wickedness. Have regard to the old age of our father, who, if we perish, will be very lonely while he lives, and will soon die himself also. Grant this boon to the name of fathers, for thereby thou wilt honor him that begat thee, and will grant it to thyself also, who enjoyest already that denomination; thou wilt then, by that denomination, be preserved of God, the Father of all, - by showing a pious regard to which, in the case of our father, thou wilt appear to honor him who is styled by the same name; I mean, if thou wilt have this pity on our father, upon this consideration, how miserable he will be if he be deprived of his sons! It is thy part therefore to bestow on us what God has given us, when it is in thy power to take it away, and so to resemble him entirely in charity; for it is good to use that power, which can either give or take away, on the merciful side; and when it is in thy power to destroy, to forget that thou ever hadst that power, and to look on thyself as only allowed power for preservation; and that the more any one extends this power, the greater reputation does he gain to himself. Now, by forgiving our brother what he has unhappily committed, thou wilt preserve us all; for we cannot think of living if he be put to death, since we dare not show ourselves alive to our father without our brother, but here must we partake of one and the same catastrophe of his life. And so far we beg of thee, O governor, that if thou condemnest our brother to die, thou wilt punish us together with him, as partners of his crime, - for we shall not think it reasonable to be reserved to kill ourselves for grief of our brother's death, but so to die rather as equally guilty with him of this crime. I will only leave with thee this one consideration, and then will say no more, viz. that our brother committed this fault when he was young, and not yet of confirmed wisdom in his conduct; and that men naturally forgive such young persons. I end here, without adding what more I have to say, that in case thou condemnest us, that omission may be supposed to have hurt us, and permitted thee to take the severer side. But in case thou settest us free, that this may be ascribed to thy own goodness, of which thou art inwardly conscious, that thou freest us from condemnation; and that not by barely preserving us, but by granting us such a favor as will make us appear more righteous than we really are, and by representing to thyself more motives for our deliverance than we are able to produce ourselves. If, therefore, thou resolvest to slay him, I desire thou wilt slay me in his stead, and send him back to his father; or if thou pleasest to retain him with thee as a slave, I am fitter to labor for thy advantage in that capacity, and, as thou seest, am better prepared for either of those sufferings. So Judas, being very willing to undergo any thing whatever for the deliverance of his brother, cast himself down at Joseph's feet, and earnestly labored to assuage and pacify his anger. All his brethren also fell down before him, weeping and delivering themselves up to destruction for the preservation of the life of Benjamin.
Sometimes Josephus appears unaware of interpretations that are core to the Jewish view of the Bible, to us. For example, when Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew, the midrash explains Jacob was eating lentils because he was in mourning for his grandfather Abraham. Josephus, however, places the death of Abraham in the place where it is in the Torah, introducing it with the words "A little while after this [the marriage of Isaac] Abraham died." This is poor scholarship on Josephus's part (and), because if one simply adds up the begats, one can see that Abraham did not die until Jacob and Esau were fifteen, a full thirty-five years after the marriage of Isaac.
Similarly, the death of Isaac is placed not just in situ ("Isaac also died not long after the coming of his son"), forestalling the rabbinical (midrashic?) interpretation of Gen 37:31-35:
They took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no. And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. וַיִּקְחוּ אֶת־כְּתֹנֶת יוֹסֵף וַיִּשְׁחֲטוּ שְׂעִיר עִזִּים וַיִּטְבְּלוּ אֶת־הַכֻּתֹּנֶת בַּדָּם׃ וַיְשַׁלְּחוּ אֶת־כְּתֹנֶת הַפַּסִּים וַיָּבִיאוּ אֶל־אֲבִיהֶם וַיֹּאמְרוּ זֹאת מָצָאנוּ הַכֶּר־נָא הַכְּתֹנֶת בִּנְךָ הִוא אִם־לֹא׃ וַיַּכִּירָהּ וַיֹּאמֶר כְּתֹנֶת בְּנִי חַיָּה רָעָה אֲכָלָתְהוּ טָרֹף טֹרַף יוֹסֵף׃ וַיִּקְרַע יַעֲקֹב שִׂמְלֹתָיו וַיָּשֶׂם שַׂק בְּמָתְנָיו וַיִּתְאַבֵּל עַל־בְּנוֹ יָמִים רַבִּים׃ וַיָּקֻמוּ כָל־בָּנָיו וְכָל־בְּנֹתָיו לְנַחֲמוֹ וַיְמָאֵן לְהִתְנַחֵם וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי־אֵרֵד אֶל־בְּנִי אָבֵל שְׁאֹלָה וַיֵּבְךְּ אֹתוֹ אָבִיו׃
The commentators say: The Torah does not waste words, so why does it say "His father wept for him," after having spent several verses showing this, again at the end? (The "thus" in the KJV above is not in the Hebrew.) The answer they come up with is that it's not Jacob weeping for Joseph, but Jacob's father Isaac weeping for Jacob, that he could not be comforted. But in Josephus's account Isaac is dead by now.
Sometimes, however, Josephus seems to know midrashim that we don't know. For example:
II.10: How Moses made war with the Ethiopians*
Moses, therefore, when he was born, and brought up in the foregoing manner, and came to the age of maturity, made his virtue manifest to the Egyptians; and showed that he was born for the bringing them down, and raising the Israelites. And the occasion he laid hold of was this: The Ethiopians, who are next neighbours to the Egyptians, made an inroad into their country, which they seized upon, and carried off the effects of the Egyptians, who, in their rage, fought against them, and revenged the affronts they had received from them; but being overcome in battle, some of them were slain, and the rest ran away in a shameful manner, and by that means saved themselves; whereupon the Ethiopians followed after them in the pursuit, and thinking that it would be a mark of cowardice if they did not subdue all Egypt, they went on to subdue the rest with greater vehemence; and when they had tasted the sweets of the country, they never left off the prosecution of the war: and as the nearest parts had not courage enough at first to fight with them, they proceeded as far as Memphis, and the sea itself, while not one of the cities was able to oppose them. The Egyptians, under this sad oppression, betook themselves to their oracles and prophecies; and when God had given them this counsel, to make use of Moses the Hebrew, and take his assistance, the king commanded his daughter to produce him, that he might be the general of their army. Upon which, when she had made him swear he would do him no harm, she delivered him to the king, and supposed his assistance would be of great advantage to them. She withal reproached the priest, who, when they had before admonished the Egyptians to kill him, was not ashamed now to own their want of his help.
So Moses, at the persuasion both of Thermuthis† and the king himself, cheerfully undertook the business: and the sacred scribes of both nations were glad; those of the Egyptians, that they should at once overcome their enemies by his valor, and that by the same piece of management Moses would be slain; but those of the Hebrews, that they should escape from the Egyptians, because Moses was to be their general. But Moses prevented the enemies, and took and led his army before those enemies were apprized of his attacking them; for he did not march by the river, but by land, where he gave a wonderful demonstration of his sagacity; for when the ground was difficult to be passed over, because of the multitude of serpents, (which it produces in vast numbers, and, indeed, is singular in some of those productions, which other countries do not breed, and yet such as are worse than others in power and mischief, and an unusual fierceness of sight, some of which ascend out of the ground unseen, and also fly in the air, and so come upon men at unawares, and do them a mischief,) Moses invented a wonderful stratagem to preserve the army safe, and without hurt; for he made baskets, like unto arks, of sedge, and filled them with ibes, and carried them along with them; which animal is the greatest enemy to serpents imaginable, for they fly from them when they come near them; and as they fly they are caught and devoured by them, as if it were done by the harts; but the ibes are tame creatures, and only enemies to the serpentine kind: but about these ibes I say no more at present, since the Greeks themselves are not unacquainted with this sort of bird. As soon, therefore, as Moses was come to the land which was the breeder of these serpents, he let loose the ibes, and by their means repelled the serpentine kind, and used them for his assistants before the army came upon that ground. When he had therefore proceeded thus on his journey, he came upon the Ethiopians before they expected him; and, joining battle with them, he beat them, and deprived them of the hopes they had of success against the Egyptians, and went on in overthrowing their cities, and indeed made a great slaughter of these Ethiopians. Now when the Egyptian army had once tasted of this prosperous success, by the means of Moses, they did not slacken their diligence, insomuch that the Ethiopians were in danger of being reduced to slavery, and all sorts of destruction; and at length they retired to Saba, which was a royal city of Ethiopia, which Cambyses afterwards named Meroë, after the name of his own sister. The place was to be besieged with very great difficulty, since it was both encompassed by the Nile quite round, and the other rivers, Astapus and Astaboras, made it a very difficult thing for such as attempted to pass over them; for the city was situate in a retired place, and was inhabited after the manner of an island, being encompassed with a strong wall, and having the rivers to guard them from their enemies, and having great ramparts between the wall and the rivers, insomuch, that when the waters come with the greatest violence, it can never be drowned; which ramparts make it next to impossible for even such as are gotten over the rivers to take the city. However, while Moses was uneasy at the army's lying idle, (for the enemies durst not come to a battle,) this accident happened: - Tharbis was the daughter of the king of the Ethiopians: she happened to see Moses as he led the army near the walls, and fought with great courage; and admiring the subtility of his undertakings, and believing him to be the author of the Egyptians' success, when they had before despaired of recovering their liberty, and to be the occasion of the great danger the Ethiopians were in, when they had before boasted of their great achievements, she fell deeply in love with him; and upon the prevalency of that passion, sent to him the most faithful of all her servants to discourse with him about their marriage. He thereupon accepted the offer, on condition she would procure the delivering up of the city; and gave her the assurance of an oath to take her to his wife; and that when he had once taken possession of the city, he would not break his oath to her. No sooner was the agreement made, but it took effect immediately; and when Moses had cut off the Ethiopians, he gave thanks to God, and consummated his marriage, and led the Egyptians back to their own land.
* "Ethiopia" here refers to Nubia, called Kush by the Hebrews and Egyptians (and Kash by its inhabitants), in present-day Sudan, not present-day Ethiopia.
† Pharaoh's daughter, not named in the Bible but known as Batya in the midrash which has come down to us.
None of this is in the Bible; so where did Josephus get it from? It appears to me to be a midrash on the following verse:
Numbers 12:1 במדבר יב א Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Kushite woman whom he had married: for he had married an Kushite woman. וַתְּדַבֵּר מִרְיָם וְאַהֲרֹן בְּמֹשֶׁה עַל־אֹדוֹת הָאִשָּׁה הַכֻּשִׁית אֲשֶׁר לָקָח כִּי־אִשָּׁה כֻשִׁית לָקָח׃
Who was Moses' Kushite wife? The only wife of Moses the Bible records is Ṣipporah, who is Midianite (from northwest Saudi Arabia), not Kushite. Hence Moses must have taken a second wife. And where could he have encountered a Kushite woman? He must have gone to Kush. And how could he have gone to Kush? It must have been on Pharaoh's business; and so on.
Sometimes, though, far from telling us what's not in the Bible, Josephus skips bits out, saying it is not lawful for him to repeat it. (For example, he does not give the text of the Ten Commandments, though he does paraphrase it.) This is reminiscent of Herodotus (which I read this summer), who was inducted into Egyptian mysteries, but took them very seriously, so as to refuse to talk about them in his book.
Next time I'll talk about what lies behind names in Antiquities such as "Raguel" (instead of "Reuel") and "Aholibamah" (rather than "Oholibamah"). Anyone got any ideas why he calls Jacob's firstborn Reubel?