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Chapter 45

In the Bible Jacob gives his sons each a blessing describing their characteristics on his deathbed; in Jubilees this becomes:
Israel blessed his sons before he died and told them everything that would befall them in the land of Egypt; and he made known to them what would come upon them in the last days, and blessed them.

He gives a double portion to Joseph, but the episode of blessing Ephraim and Menashe the wrong way around is missing.

Ever concerned with the transmission of the information which had been passed down from the angels to Enoch, Jubilees adds to the description of Jacob's death:

He gave all his books and the books of his fathers to Levi his son that he might preserve them and renew them for his children until this day.

I've been using this online text of Jubilees as my source for quotations the whole way, but it's taken me this far to get around to reading the preface, which says that one of the rationales behind Jubilees is fighting against the viewpoint of the Hellenised Jews, who claim that the Levitical laws were no longer applicable, by giving them heavenly origin and pushing their observance back long before Moses.

Chapter 46

The Bible presents Jacob's sons freaking out after the death of their father, fearing that now Jacob is dead Joseph will take his revenge upon them for selling him into slavery. Not so in the Book of Jubilees:
It came to pass that after Jacob died the children of Israel multiplied in the land of Egypt, and they became a great nation, and they were of one accord in heart, so that brother loved brother and every man helped his brother, and they increased abundantly and multiplied exceedingly, ten weeks of years, all the days of Joseph's life. There was no adversary nor any evil all the days of the life of Joseph which he lived after his father Jacob, for all the Egyptians honoured the children of Israel all the days of the life of Joseph.
When Jacob dies, his children take his body back to Cana`an to bury him, but when Joseph dies, he merely makes the Israelites swear to rebury him in Cana`an when God will at some future point pay attention to the Israelites and bring them up out of Egypt. This reason isn't good enough for Jubilees, which comes up with a midrash to explain it:
He knew that the Egyptians would not again bring forth and bury him in the land of Canaan, for Makamaron, king of Canaan, while dwelling in the land of Assyria, fought in the valley with the king of Egypt and slew him there, and pursued after the Egyptians to the gates of Hermon. But he was not able to enter, for another, a new king, had become king of Egypt, and he was stronger than him. So he returned to the land of Canaan, and the gates of Egypt were closed: none went out and none came into Egypt.
It goes on to say:
The children of Israel brought forth all the bones of the children of Jacob save the bones of Joseph, and they buried them in the field in the double cave in the mountain. And the most (of them) returned to Egypt, but a few of them remained in the mountains of Hebron, and Amram your father remained with them. Then the king of Canaan was victorious over the king of Egypt, and he closed the gates of Egypt.

Now this is interesting; what's going on here? My guess is that a continuous Israelite presence in the land of Cana`an is necessary for the Israelites to know, when they emerged from Egypt after 210 years, where their holy sites were in the land of Cana`an. Alternatively, ch. 37 decribed how the sons of Jacob imposed servitude upon the Edomites "until this day"; there would need to remain Israelites in Cana`an for that too.

But what is the narrator's point in having Amram specifically locked out of Egypt? I have no idea; what about you? Jubilees states in the following chapter that Amram returned to Egypt after an exile of what if you add up the dates (expressed in pounds, shillings and pence jubilees, weeks and years) comes out as somewhere between forty and sixty-one years.

To dip into next week's sedra briefly (because it ties in thematically here), the Bible gives the fear that the ever-multiplying Israelites will side with an enemy of Egypt in a war as a reason that the Egyptians enslaved them; Jubilees ties this in with the war referred to above explicitly says "their hearts and faces are towards the land of Canaan".

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


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Lethargic Man (anag.)

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