lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
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Chapter 29

When Jacob returns to Cana`an, Jubilees pauses to talk about how the Rephaim were destroyed by God on account of their evil deeds, but misses out altogether the episode of Jacob wrestling with the angel (which is the source of the name Israel, "Wrestles with God", which God still gives him here, but without explaining the reason), and reduces the confrontation and reconciliation of Jacob and Esau to a single sentence. Possibly this is because the traditional enmity between Israel and the Edomites (by now called Idumaeans) was still ongoing at the time Jubilees was written,* and the author didn't want to dwell on their reconciliation.

* This being shortly before the Hasmoneans conquered the Idumaeans and gave them the choice between conversion to Judaism or exile, which the consequences of which are that, when, a couple of centuries later, King Agrippa I (who, as a descendant of Herod, was patrilineally an Idumaean though in other ancestry Jewish), read in public Deuteronomy 17:15, stating that “you may not put a foreigner over you” as king, his eyes ran with tears, but the people cried out, “Don’t fear, Agrippa, you are our brother, you are our brother!” Unfortunately when Edom later became associated with first Rome then Christianity, the ancient animadversity towards it became reinstated in Jewish feeling.

After Jacob returns to Cana`an, he lives some time near Shechem, until forced to flee after his sons kill its inhabitants after the rape of Dinah, then he travels to Bethel, and only then does he go south to visit his aged father. One might have thought he would have done this immediately after he returned. Jubilees tries to exonerate him, thus:

He sent to his father Isaac of all his substance, clothing, and food, and meat, and drink, and milk, and butter, and cheese, and some dates of the valley. And to his mother Rebecca also four times a year, between the times of the months, between ploughing and reaping, and between autumn and the rain (season) and between winter and spring, to the tower of Abraham. For Isaac had returned from the Well of the Oath and gone up to the tower of his father Abraham, and he dwelt there apart from his son Esau. [...] Thither Jacob sent all that he did send to his father and his mother from time to time, all they needed, and they blessed Jacob with all their heart and with all their soul.

There's no indication, by the way, that Abraham built any tower in the Bible. This is the first mention of it here; it will prove significant, if briefly, in terms of plot later.

There's also no mention in the Bible that Rebecca was still alive when Jacob returned to Cana`an, but there's also no mention anywhere of her death, just, obscurely, that her wet nurse Deborah died at this point. (In Jubilees, she's with Jacob because she is accompanying Rebecca with Jacob to Bethel.)

Chapter 30

The story of the rape of Dinah starts in the Bible with by saying וַתֵּצֵא דִינָה בַּת־לֵאָה אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה לְיַעֲקֹב לִרְאוֹת בִּבְנוֹת הָאָרֶץ׃ "Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land," which, it strikes me, has a slight undertone of "If Dinah hadn't gone to socialise with the Canaanite girls, Shechem wouldn't have seen her and she wouldn't have got raped."

Jubilees avoids this entirely; not only is this verse missing, the story starting with "there they carried off Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, into the house of Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite, the prince of the land, and he lay with her and defiled her", but the very next sentence imputes innocence to Dinah by saying, with no Biblical justification at all, "she was a little girl, a child of twelve years." Though, come to think about it in Biblical times, that wasn't so young at all. I wonder what words the original Hebrew used here. (I'll probably have to go on wondering: apart from fragments among the Dead Sea Scrolls, we don't have the original text; it's primarily preserved in Ge'ez, the sacred language of Ethiopia.)

In the Bible, Jacob is troubled by the fact Shim`on and Levi massacre the inhabitants of Shechem. His response in Gen. 34:30 may be interpreted as just fear of reprisals from the Canaanites, but when it comes to his deathbed blessing of his children, what they get in Gen. 49:5-7 is actually more like a curse. Jubilees, however, perhaps wanting to impress upon its readership that rape of Jewish women by non-Jews is utterly unacceptable, goes into a long rant justifying Shim`on and Levi's action, starting:

Never again let it be done that a daughter of Israel be defiled; for judgment is ordained in heaven against them that they should destroy with the sword all the men of the Shechemites because they had wrought shame in Israel. And the Lord delivered them into the hands of the sons of Jacob that they might exterminate them with the sword and execute judgment upon them, and that it might not thus again be done in Israel that a virgin of Israel should be defiled.
and continuing at a later point:
For this reason I have commanded thee, saying: 'Testify this testimony to Israel: see how the Shechemites fared and their sons: how they were delivered into the hands of two sons of Jacob, and they slew them under tortures, and it was (reckoned) unto them for righteousness,* and it is written down to them for righteousness. And the seed of Levi was chosen for the priesthood, and to be Levites, that they might minister before the Lord, as we, continually, and that Levi and his sons may be blessed for ever; for he was zealous to execute righteousness and judgment and vengeance on all those who arose against Israel. And so they inscribe as a testimony in his favour on the heavenly tablets blessing and righteousness before the God of all.'

* Or as my modern translation puts it, "It was considered that they got what was coming to them." (I use an out-of-copyright translation for my quotations here, the language of which I sometimes modernise a little, but not a lot.)

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


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Lethargic Man (anag.)

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