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Chapter 10

The whole Christian idea of Satan isn't a very Jewish one; Satan in Jewish thought is decidedly subject to God, as we see in the Book of Job, for example. In modern Jewish thought, the idea of an external tempter is scarcely present at all; we talk about temptation coming from within, and everyone having an evil inclination and a good inclination. But the Christian conception didn't come from nowhere, and at one point Judaism was very much into the idea of an external tempter, referred to as Satan or Prince Mastema. But this leaves the question of how to reconcile such a tempter with God as ruler of the universe. Here's how the Book of Jubilees solved it:

In the third week of this jubilee the unclean demons began to lead astray the children of the sons of Noah, and to make to err and destroy them. The sons of Noah came to Noah their father, and they told him concerning the demons which were leading astray and blinding and slaying his sons' sons. He prayed before the Lord his God, and said: 'God of the spirits of all flesh, Who has shown mercy unto me and has saved me and my sons from the waters of the flood, and hast not caused me to perish as Thou didst the sons of perdition, for Thy grace has been great towards me, and great has been Thy mercy to my soul, let Thy grace be lift up upon my sons, and let not wicked spirits rule over them lest they should destroy them from the earth. But bless me and my sons, that we may increase and Multiply and replenish the earth.

'Thou knowest how Thy Watchers, the fathers of these spirits, acted in my day: and as for these spirits which are living, imprison them and hold them fast in the place of condemnation, and let them not bring destruction on the sons of thy servant, my God; for these are malignant, and created in order to destroy. And let them not rule over the spirits of the living; for Thou alone canst exercise dominion over them. And let them not have power over the sons of the righteous from henceforth and for evermore.'

So the Lord our God bade us [the angels] to bind them all. Then the chief of the spirits, Mastema, came and said: 'Lord, Creator, let some of them remain before me, and let them harken to my voice, and do all that I shall say unto them; for if some of them are not left to me, I shall not be able to execute the power of my will on the sons of men; for these are for corruption and leading astray before my judgment, for great is the wickedness of the sons of men.'

He replied, 'Let the tenth part of them remain before him, and let nine parts descend into the place of condemnation.'

Jubilees portrays Noah as expressing a favouritism to the ancestor of the Hebrews that is not shown in the Bible; and again we see here Noah portrayed as eminently righteous:
Noah gave all that he had written to Shem, his eldest son; for he loved him more than all his other sons. Noah slept with his fathers, and was buried on Mount Lubar in the land of Ararat. Nine hundred and fifty years he completed in his life, nineteen jubilees and two weeks and five years. And in his life on earth he excelled the children of men save Enoch because of the righteousness, wherein he was perfect.
The Bible describes how God confounds the building of the Tower of Babel, but from the Biblical account it would appear the half-built tower is left standing. From the point of view of the author of Jubilees (writing, perhaps unlike the originators of the oral tradition that led to Genesis, at a time when the eponymous ziggurat in Babylon no longer stood), that is not theologically acceptable:
The Lord sent a mighty wind against the tower and overthrew it upon the earth.
The author of Jubilees was apparently bothered by the fact the ancient Israelites gained their kingdom by dispossessing the earlier occupants of the land, and sought to justify it thus:

Ham and his children went into the land which he was to occupy, which he acquired as his portion in the land of the south. Canaan saw that the land of Lebanon to the river of Egypt was very good; so he did not go into the land of his inheritance to the west (that is to) the sea, but dwelt in the land of Lebanon, eastward and westward from the border of Jordan and from the border of the sea.

Ham, his father, and Cush and Mizraim his brothers said unto him: 'You have settled in a land which is not yours, and which did not fall to us by lot: do not do so; for if you do, you and your children will fall in the land and be accursed through sedition; for by sedition have you settled, and by sedition will your children fall, and you shalt be rooted out for ever. Do not dwell in the dwelling of Shem; for it came to Shem and his children by their lot. Cursed art you, and cursed shalt you be beyond all the sons of Noah, by the curse by which we bound ourselves by an oath in the presence of the holy judge, and in the presence of Noah our father.'

But he did not listen to them, and dwelt in the land of Lebanon from Hamath to the entering of Egypt, he and his children to this day. For this reason that land is named Canaan.

(And this answers the question I was asking in yesterday's post.)

[Dead Sea Scroll of Jubilees] Jubilees posts                     Jewish learning notes index


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