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Chapter 34

This chapter starts with an episode with no Biblical precedent whatsoever (unless it's Abraham's intervention in the war of the four kings and the five kings):

In the sixth year of this week of this forty-fourth jubilee Jacob sent his sons to pasture their sheep, and his servants with them to the pastures of Shechem. The seven kings of the Amorites assembled themselves together against them, to slay them, hiding themselves under the trees, and to take their cattle as a prey. Jacob and Levi and Judah and Joseph were in the house with Isaac their father; for his spirit was sorrowful, and they could not leave him; and Benjamin was the youngest, and for this reason remained with his father.

There came the king[s] of Taphu, the king[s] of 'Aresa, the king[s] of Seragan, the king[s] of Selo, and the king[s] of Ga'as, the king of Bethoron, and the king of Ma'anisakir, and all those who dwell in these 5 mountains (and) who dwell in the woods in the land of Canaan. They announced this to Jacob: 'Behold, the kings of the Amorites have surrounded your sons, and plundered their herds.'

[Jacob] arose from his house, he and his three sons and all the servants of his father, and his own servants, and he went against them with six thousand men, who carried swords. He slew them in the pastures of Shechem, and pursued those who fled, and he slew them with the edge of the sword, and he slew 'Aresa and Taphu and Saregan and Selo and 'Amani-sakir and Ga[ga]'as, and he recovered his herds. And he prevailed over them, and imposed tribute on them that they should pay him tribute, five fruit products of their land, and he built Robel and Tamnatares. And he returned in peace, and made peace with them, and they became his servants, until the day that he and his sons went down into Egypt.

I think this is there as foreshadowing for the story we'll get to next week.

The story of how Joseph was sold into slavery is simplified: Joseph's premonitory dreams are missing, and the attempts by Reuben and Judah to talk the other brothers into not killing him elided to just "They changed their minds and sold him to Ishmaelite merchants" (missing out the confusion in the Biblical text between Ishmaelites and Midianites).

Potiphar, who buys Joseph, is described in the Bible as סְרִיס פַּרְעֹה שַׂר הַטַּבָּחִים. This is translated as "an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard," which is misleading. סְרִיס is elsewhere translated as "eunuch"; evidently eunuchs could reach high status if the one word can also mean "officer". As for "captain of the guard", שַׂר הַטַּבָּחִים means more literally "chief executioner". I'd be intrigued to know what the Ge'ez text says in Jubilees; the out-of-copyright translation I use for my postings here says "chief eunuch" but my modern translation "court official"; the second description in both is "chief cook!" Jubilees also describes him as "priest of the city of Elew", which makes explicit the identification of the Biblical Potiphar, Joseph's master, and Poti-phera priest of On, Joseph's future father-in-law; and indeed in Ch. 40, Joseph's wife is described as the daughter of Potiphar, priest of Heliopolis, the chief cook.

Jacob's mourning for the loss of his son is intensified in Jubilees:

On that day Bilhah heard that Joseph had perished, and she died mourning him, and she was living in Qafratef, and Dinah also, his daughter, died after Joseph had perished. And there came these three mournings upon Israel in one month.
This is again used to provide justification for the date of a Mosaic festival:
For this reason it is ordained for the children of Israel that they should afflict themselves on the tenth of the seventh month—on the day that the news which made him weep for Joseph came to Jacob his father—that they should make atonement for themselves thereon with a young goat on the tenth of the seventh month, once a year, for their sins; for they had grieved the affection of their father regarding Joseph his son. And this day has been ordained that they should grieve thereon for their sins, and for all their transgressions and for all their errors, so that they might cleanse themselves on that day once a year.

The goat is, of course, relevant to both Joseph's story and Yom Kippur. (In actuality, the date of Yom Kippur was probably set so that Israelites, who had come to the Temple (or earlier, the Tabernacle) for Succoth might also be there on Yom Kippur a few days earlier, as Yom Kippur is not in itself a pilgrimage festival.)

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


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Lethargic Man (anag.)

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