The Book of Jubilees



1. Introduction to the Book of Jubilees
   1.1. Description and Manuscripts
   1.2. Authorship and Date of the Book of Jubilees
   1.3. Purpose of the Book of Jubilees
   1.4. Contents of the Book of Jubilees
      1.4.1. Introduction
      1.4.2. Outline of the Book of Jubilees
2. Religious Ideas in the Book of Jubilees
   2.1. God as Righteous Judge
   2.2. The Law
   2.3. Angels
   2.4. Solar Calendar
   2.5. Eschatology
   2.6. Supremacy of Priests
   2.7. Possibility of the Removal of Guilt
   2.8. Nationalism and Racial Purity
   2.9. Zion as the Navel of the Earth
3. Reading: Book of Jubilees

 

M. Albani; J. Frey; A. Lang, ed., Studies in the Book of Jubilees (1997); K. Berger, Das Buch der Jubiläen (1981); R.H. Charles, The Ethiopic Version of the Hebrew Book of Jubilees (1895); id., The Book of Jubilees or the Little Genesis (1902); J. Endres, Biblical Interpretation in the Book of Jubilees (1987); G.L. Davenport, The Eschatology of the Book of Jubilees (1971); C. Hempel, “The Place of the Book of Jubilees at Qumran and Beyond,” The Dead Sea Scrolls in the Their Historical Context (ed. T. Lim) (2000) 187-96; G. Nickelsburg, “The Nature and Function of Revelation in 1 Enoch, Jubilees, and Some Qumranic Documents,” Pseudepigraphic Perspectives: The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (ed. E. Chazon and M. Stone) (1999) 91-119; C. Rowland, The Open Heaven. A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity (1982); J. van Ruiten, Primaeval History Interpreted (2000); M. Testuz, Les idées religieuses du livre des Jubilés (1960); J. VanderKam, Textual and Historical Studies in the Book of Jubilees (1977); J. VanderKam and J. Milik, “Jubilees” Qumran Cave 4. VIII Parabiblical Texts Part I (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 13) (1994) 1-140; J. VanderKam, “The Jubilees Fragments from Qumran Cave 4,” The Madrid Qumran Conference (ed. J. Trebolle Barrera and L. Vegas Montaner) (1992) 2.635-48; id., The Book of Jubilees (2001); B. Wachholder, “Jubilees as the Super Canon: Tora Admonition versus Tora-Commandment,” Legal Texts and Legal Issues. Proceedings of the Second Meeting of the International Organization for Qumran Studies. Published in Honour of Joseph M. Baumgarten (ed. M. Bernstein; F. Garcia Martinez; J. Kampen) (1997) 195-211; O. S. Wintermute, “Jubilees,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (1983) 1.35–142.

 

1. Introduction to the Book of Jubilees

1.1. Description and Manuscripts

The text called in its Ethiopic translation “The Account of the Division of Days of the Law and the Testimony for Annual Observance according to their Weeks and their Jubilees throughout all the Years of the World” purports to be a revelation given to Moses on Mt. Sinai by an “angel of the Presence” (see Jub. 1:26–27; 2.1). It has been pointed out that in Jub. 1:26 and 2:1 it is Moses who is instructed to write down the angelically mediated revelation, whereas in Jub.1.27 it seems that the Lord commands the angel to record the revelation for Moses. This apparent contradiction has generated much scholarly inquiry.The Qumran text identified as 4Q217 possibly is another copy of the Book of Jubilees. If so, there is a probable reference to the Hebrew title of the book known from the prologue: [...] the division of the times, for the Law and for [the testimony ...] [...] for all the y[ears of] eternity, from the crea[tion...] and all [that is] created until the day [...] [...Jer]usalem." Moreover, in 4Q228 the Book of Jubilees is probably cited according to the shorter title “Divisions of the Times.” A text called “The Book of Divisions of the Times into their Jubilees and Weeks” is quoted in the Damascus Document, and seems to be the Book of Jubilees (CD 16.3-4). In Greek, the Book of Jubilees is called “The Jubilees” or “The Little Genesis.”

The Book of Jubilees is a rewriting of the material found in Gen 1-Exod 12. A chronology based on the "week" (Heb. shbw') (a period of seven years) and the "jubilee" (Heb. ywbl) (a period of forty-nine years, or seven "year-weeks"), however, is imposed upon the biblical material. In addition, the biblical source is redacted in places and non-biblical material is interpolated into it. In terms of genre, the Book of Jubilees could be described as an apocalypse, insofar as it purports to be the contents of the heavenly tablets revealed to Moses by an angel of the Presence (1:29; see 3:10, 31; 4:5, 32; 6:17, 29, 31, 35; 15:25; 16:28–29; 18:19; 28:6; 30:9; 32:10, 15; 33:10; 39:6; 49:8; 50:13). It further agrees with other seond-Temple texts identified as apocalypses in its periodiziation of history (according to “jubilees”) culminating in Israel's eschatological salvation. Unlike other apocalypses, however, its visions of the future are not given in symbolic terms. The Book of Jubilees also contains contains testaments (7.20-39 [Noah]; 20-22 [Abraham]; 36 [Isaac]; 35 [Rebecca]) and has extensive halakic and haggadic material. What is significant for an understanding of the views of the author and the group that he represents is the numerous alterations made to the biblical text. One could also describe the genre of Jubilees as "rewritten Bible." (Testuz prefers to describe the Book of Jubilees as a composite work having five genres: history, testament, apocalyptic, ritual law and chronology [ Les ideés religieuses du livre des Jubilés, 11-12].)

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Jubilees existed in an Ethiopic translation of a Greek translation in four manuscripts dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. There also existed some fragmentary quotations of a Greek translation of Jubilees and a Latin translation of a Greek translation covering about a quarter of the work. Between 1947 and 1956 fragments of at least fourteen copies of the Book of Jubilees were found in caves 1, 2, 3, 4 and 11 at Qumran, all written in Hebrew, no doubt the original language (1Q17-18; 2Q19-20; 3Q5; 4Q216-24; 4Q482?; 11Q12). (4Q225 and 4Q226 are similar to Jubilees but not considered to be fragment of copies of it, so that the title 4QPseudo-Jubilees is given to these texts.) The fragments of the original Hebrew text that have turned up at Qumran represent only a small portion of the complete text and so generally only are of limited use in determining the original Hebrew of important words and phrases in the Ethiopic translation. Nevertheless, comparing it to what does remain of the original Hebrew, it is clear that the Ethiopic translation is accurate and tends to be literalistic. Given the fact that at least fourteen copies of it have been identified from the Qumran caves, it is clear that Jubilees was a popular and probably authoritative text to some degree for the community, which may imply that the Qumran sectarians took seriously the text’s claim to be divine revelation mediated to Moses by the angel of the Presence. In general, however, it is difficult to know the religious status of texts like the Book of Jubilees.

1.2. Authorship and Date of the Book of Jubilees

Whoever he was, the true author of the Book of Jubilees was probably a Palestinian Jew, because the original language of the Book of Jubilees was Hebrew. (In Jub. 12:26, Hebrew is said to be the language of creation.) In addition, the author was also probably a priest, given his detailed knowledge of priestly matters (3:27; 6:3; 13:25–27; 16:21–24; 21:7–17; 32:4–16) and the prominence that he gives to Levi (31:15; 45:15). The author includes himself as one of “the elect of Israel” (Jub. 1:29), which likely comprises all those who are considered to be truly obedient to God, as opposed to another type of Jew. More can be said about the identity of the author when the date of the composition of the Book of Jubilees is determined.

Dating the composition of the Book of Jubilees has been controversial. In Jub. 4.17–24, it is said that Enoch wrote “in a book the signs of the heaven according to the order of their months, so that the sons of man might know the (appointed) times of the years according to their order, with respect to each of their months.” This is probably a reference to what has been called the Astronomical Book, fragments of which have found in cave four at Qumran (4QEnastr-a-d [4Q208–209]). (1 Enoch 72–82, the Book of the Heavenly Luminaries, is likely an abridgement of this text.) (Other possible uses by the author of material now forming part of 1 Enoch include 1 En. 10 = Jub. 5:10–16; 1 En. 6–16 = Jub. 5, 7.) The Astronomical Book dates from as early as the third century BCE, based on the paleographical dating of one of the fragments of this text found at Qumran (Enastr-a) (see Milik, Books of Enoch, 7–8). It follows that the Book of Jubilees cannot be earlier than the third century BCE.

As already indicated, fragments of the Book of Jubilees were found at Qumran, in caves 1, 2, 3, 4 and 11. Paleographically, the oldest of these textual fragments, 4Q216 (4QJub-a) dates from no later than 100 BCE. The oldest fragments of the Book of Jubilees uncovered in cave four are probably copies, so that the original text is to be dated earlier than 100 BCE. This date is confirmed by the fact that it is probable that the Damascus Document, usually dated c. 100 BCE, refers to the Book of Jubilees (see CD 16.2–4), so that the latter must predate the former by enough time to allow it to become an authoritative text for the author of the Damascus Document. (4Q228 also refers to the Book of Jubilees as an authoritative text, using the introductory formula “For thus it is written," but dating this text is more difficult.) Similarly, the author of the Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen) may have used the Book of Jubilees as a source, which would explain why they have traditions in common and the fact that they use the same biblical text. The date of composition of the Genesis Apocryphon is not known for certain, but it probably dates from the first century BCE. Thus, based on all these data, the Book of Jubilees cannot be later than 100 BCE and so was written sometime during the second century BCE.

Stegemann argues that, because “Jubilees was a chief traditional authority for the Essenes from the beginning and that the Essenes were founded around 150 B.C.,” the composition of the Book of Jubilees must antedate the second third of the second century BCE (The Library of Qumran, 91-92). He places its composition in the third century. It does not seem to follow, however, that the Book of Jubilees must be so old to have the authoritative place that it enjoyed among the Essenes.

Another method of dating the Book of Jubilees, which permits a more precise determination of the date of its composition, is to situate it historically. The available data converge towards the conclusion that the Book of Jubilees probably dates from the early Hasmonean period. The text has affinities with the Qumran sectarian writings, so that the author has some historical connection to the Essenes, those responsible for these writings. Unlike the latter, however, the Book of Jubilees gives no indication that a break has occurred between those whose views it represents and the Jewish nation as a whole; rather it has no criticism of the Temple cult, and exhibits a pro-Hasmonean stance: "And they shall stand [up with] swords and war to turn them back into the way; but they shall 21 not return until much blood has been shed on the earth, one by another" (Jub. 23:20).

L. Finkelstein reasonably proposes 175 BCE as a terminus a quo, the year in Jason became high priest and opened a gymnasion in Jerusalem. The author rebukes his contemporaries for their public nakedness, which implies their participation in the gymnasion (Jub. 3:31) (“Pre-Maccabean Documents in the Passover Haggadah,” HTR 36 (1943) 1-38, esp. 19-24. The terminus ad quem, however, is not too long after this event since public nakedness is still a burning issue for the author. (Finkelstein’s other indicators of a date for the composition of Jubilees are not as convincing.) B. Noack points out, in spite of conceptual similarities, there are some differences between the Book of Jubilees and Qumran sectarian texts, which suggests that the author is not simply to be identified as a member of the community (“Qumran and the Book of Jubilees,” SEÅ 22-23 (1957-58) 191-207). Noack argues that it is a fallacy to assume that similarity of content between the Book of Jubilees and the Qumran sectarian texts necessarily means that the latter was responsible for the composition of the former. Such a conclusion does not take into account the differences between Book of Jubilees and the Qumran sectarian texts. Such observations are consistent with a date of composition before the emergence of the Essenes as a clearly defined movement.

In part, at least, the reason for the schism between the Qumran sectarians and the nation as a whole centered around the halakic disagreements with the High Priest Jonathan; eventually, there was a falling out between the community and the High Priest, which led to their separation from mainstream Jewish society. Thus, the Book of Jubilees was probably composed before this schism occurred. This means that the Book of Jubilees must have been written before c. 152 BCE. (In 152 BCE, Jonathan received the High Priesthood from Alexander Balas [1 Macc 10:20], and in 140 BCE Simon was acclaimed High Priest by the Jewish people [1 Macc 14:35].)

Some scholars attempt to identify alleged biblical events in the Book of Jubilees with events from the early Hasmonean period, especially battles fought with neighboring peoples (see Charles, The Book of Jubilees, lvi, lxii–lxiii; VanderKam, Textual and Historical Studies in the Book of Jubilees, 217–46). Thus, the latest possible date of an event identified would be the earliest possible date for the composition of the Book of Jubilees. R. H. Charles claims that Jub. 30:4-6, the narrative of the destruction of Schechem, actually alludes to the subjugation of the Samaritans under John Hyrcanus about four years before his death in 105 BCE (The Book of Jubilees, lxii). Thus, he concludes that the terminus a quo for the composition of the Book of Jubilees would be after that event between 109-105 BCE. It is doubtful, however, that Charles is correct in seeing the subjugation of the Samaritans in Jub. 30:4-6. J. VanderKam argues that the event described in Jub. 23:21 follows the Maccabean revolt and “could depict the appointment of Alcimus in 162 and his infidelity to the Chasidim who had accepted him” (Textual and Historical Studies in the Book of Jubilees, 254). According to VanderKam, Jub. 23:22–23 depicts “the Syrian invasions of Judea during Alcimus’ term of office” (254). J. Endres agrees that “those who have escaped and not returned from their wickedness” are the pro-Hellenistic High Priest Alcimus and his political faction, who opposed Judas and his followers, but received the support of the Hasidim (1 Macc 7:5–18; 2 Macc 14:3–10; Ant. 12.391–93) (Biblical Interpretation in the Book of Jubilees, 55–56). This allows the establishment of 161 BCE as the terminus a quo of at least this portion of the Book of Jubilees. There are, however, too few clear historical allusions in Jub. 23:21–23 to the events surrounding the appointment of Alcimus as High Priest to accept VanderKam’s hypothesis. For example, VanderKam must interpret the reference to the defilement of the Holy of Holies in Jub. 23:21 symbolically: “The reference to the Holy of Holies is probably a figurative way of saying that he had defiled his office by his conduct” (254). The more natural interpretation would be the desecration of the altar (1 Macc 1:54; 2 Macc 6:2). It is probably better to interpret the events of Jub. 23:21–23 as antedating the Maccabean revolt. Tcherikover holds that there were two rebellions, the first led by the Chasidim in response to the political and economic changes instituted in Jerusalem in 175 BCE, which was the reason for Antiochus’ intervention and imposition of his draconian measures (see 2 Macc 5:5–10), and the second, the better-known Maccabean revolt (Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, chap. 5). Thus Jub. 23:16–20 would describe the first rebellion, Jub. 23:21–25 Antiochus’ persecution and Jub. 23:26–30 the successful Maccabean revolt just underway at the time of the author’s composition of this work. It is possible, nevertheless, that Jub. 37:1–38:14 may reflect the battle between Judas’ campaigns in 163 BCE (1 Macc 5; Ant. 12.327–53; see 2 Macc 10:14–23; 12:10–46) (VanderKam, Textual and Historical Studies in the Book of Jubilees, 230–38).

It should also be noted that in Jub. 50:12 it is forbidden to make war on the Sabbath and in 1 Macc 2:31–41 an unidentified group of Jewish fugitives allowed themselves to be slaughtered because they refused to violate the Sabbath by fighting against their attackers; this halakic position was rejected by Mattathias and his allies when they learned of the massacre (see 2 Macc 6:11). It is then said in 1 Macc 1:42 that the Chasidim joined forces with Mattathias, possibly implying that it was some of their company that gave no resistance when attacked on the Sabbath and that they now agree that defending oneself on the Sabbath was not contrary to the Law after all. Thus, it is even possible that the Book Jubilees was written by a member of the Chasidim even before they joined forces with Mattathias and then Judas c.167 BCE and then changed their Sabbath halakot. The issue that remains to determined, of course, is the identity of the Chasidim.

If the Book of Jubilees was composed in the early Hasmonean period, no later than 152 BCE and possibly much earlier, its author could be described as a proto-Essene insofar as the text became influential in the later Essene movement. Further, if the text is the product of the Chasidim movement mentioned in 1 Maccabees, then the author and the group that he represents could be described as Chasidic progenitors of the Essenes. Indeed, the author’s overall purpose likely was to refute the universalizing views of the pro-Hellenistic party, which views are briefly described in 1 Macc 1:11: “Let us go and make a covenant with the nations around us, because, since we have separated ourselves from them, many evil things have come upon us.” The Chadisim, along with the Hasmoneans and their supporters, opposed this liberalizing element in second-Temple Judaism. The stress on the timelessness and eternity of the Law as well Israel’s uniqueness and separateness from the nations in the Book of Jubilees is a response to the claims of the pro-Hellenistic party.

That the Book of Jubilees was written sometime in the first half of the second century BCE is confirmed by the fact that, for the author, Hellenization still appears to be a threat; it has not yet receded into the collective memory of the Jewish people to become a past event. Polemic against Hellenizing Jews can be found in Jub. 3:31 (Against public nakedness; see 1 Macc 1.13–14) and Jub. 15.33–34 (Against not circumcising; see 1 Macc 1.15, 63; 2:20, 27; 4:10). In addition, the eschatological perspective of the Book of Jubilees presupposes that only a short period of time between the beginning of the (anticipated) national revolt and the composition of the text has elapsed. In Jub. 23.16–32, it is said that, after national apostasy (Hellenization), the younger generation will arise, and return to God; as a result, God will progressively bring about the eschatological blessings promised by the prophets. From the author’s standpoint the benefits occasioned by national repentance and renewed obedience to the Law will occur in the near future. Since these eschatological blessing did not come as expected, the author must be writing at time when the possibility that they would come still existed, that is, shortly after the beginnings of the Maccabean revolt. It is always possible, however, that Jub. 23:16–32 was composed earlier than the rest of the Book of Jubilees and was later incorporated into the larger work.



These wooden combs, c. six cm. long and made of boxwood, were found at Qumran; they date from first century BCE to first century CE. The side of these combs with more closely-spaced teeth was used for for delousing the scalp, whereas the other side with teeth farther apart was used for combing the hair.

1.3. Purpose of the Book of Jubilees

The author’s overall purpose is polemical. In particular, he opposes the liberalizing, pro-Hellenistic Jews known from 1 & 2 Maccabees and aims to persuade his readers to adopt a nationalistic and isolationist understanding of Judaism. He seeks to have his views on various theological or legal issues authenticated by none other than the authority of Moses and the angel of the Presence. Whether the author actually expects his readers to believe that his text is the “original” text, on which the canonical Genesis and Exod 1-12 depend, or whether the author’s use of this genre of angelic revelation is a mere literary device used to put forward his own views is difficult to know for certain. What is significant for an understanding of the views of the author and the group that he represents is the numerous alterations made to the biblical text. In addition to using his text to promote his own theological and legal views, secondarily, the author seems also to be concerned to fill in many narrative gaps that occur in the biblical texts for literary reasons (e.g., the name of Cain’s wife).  

1.4. Contents of the Book of Jubilees

1.4.1. Introduction

As indicated, the Book of Jubilees is a reworking of the material found in Genesis 1- Exodus 12 (Passover) allegedly revealed to Moses by the angel of the Presence. The angel addresses Moses in the second person singular (2:26, 29; 4:26; 6:11-32 etc.); he usually speaks of himself in the first person plural, as a representative of the angelic realm (most common in 2-19; but see also 30:20; 41:24; 48:10, 11, 16, 19), but sometimes also in the first person singular (Jub 6:19, 22, 35; 12:22, 26; 16:5; 18:9-11; 30:21; 48:4, 13; 50:13). The author abridges or omits some material from Genesis and Exod 1-12, and introduces material not found in the biblical books. The material that he introduces is both of a narrative (haggadah) and legal (halakah) nature.

1.4.2. Outline of the Book of Jubilees

A. 1 Introduction

B. 2-4 Creation and Stories about Adam

C. 5-10 Stories about Noah

D. 11-23:10 Stories about Abraham

E. 23:11-32 Israel's Eschatological Salvation

F. 24-45 Jacob and his Offspring

G. 46-50 Stories about Moses
 

 

 

The Judean Desert

 

2. Religious Ideas in the Book of Jubilees

2.1. God as Righteous Judge

A dominant theme in the Book of Jubilees is that of God as righteous judge. God is explicitly described as “a judge who does not accept persons or gifts” (33:18; see 5:16; 21:4a). As righteous, God never deviates from the strict and universal application of retributive justice: “And there is nothing excluded which is in heaven or on earth or in the light or in the darkness or in Sheol or in the depth of the earth or in the place of darkness” (5:14). In Jub. 20:5 the destruction of the antediluvian giants and the people of Sodom are provided as examples of God's righteous judgment. In his testament (20–22), Abraham explains to Isaac that God “is the one who executes judgment with all who transgress his commandments and despise his covenant” (21:4b). Since the phrases “transgress his commandments” and “despise his covenant” are parallel in meaning, the author defines covenant primarily as human obligation to obey the commandments of God; no doubt he is thinking of the Mosaic Law, which his Hellenizing contemporaries have rejected or relativized. Abraham also warns his son Isaac against walking in the ways of the surrounding nations and, in particular, against committing a sin unto death, which will result in being delivered into the power of that sin and then being rooted out of the land (21:22). (Likely, this admonition is also directed to the author’s pro-Hellenistic contemporaries.) Finally, Jacob warns his son Esau, “Know that there is a God and he sees what is hidden and requites to everyone according to his deeds” (37:19). In summary, it is clear that God relates to the human race as a righteous judge and metes out to all what their behavior deserves (see also 4:31–32; 30:16). This no doubt is intended to serve as a warning to the pro-Hellenizing Jews whom the author opposes: there will be national consequences for their abandonment of the covenant and Law..

2.2. The Law

The Law is central is the Book of Jubilees. It defines what is good and evil for all of creation and serves as the basis of God’s judgment.

2.2.1. The Law is written on heavenly tablets, so that before it was revealed to Moses the Law was already in existence (see 3:10-11; 4:5, 32; 6:17; 15:25-26; 16:29; 28:6; 32:10-11, 15, 28; 33:10; 49:7-8; 50:13). The heavenly tablets contain the totality of God's requirements to which all moral beings are responsible to conform their lives; this includes human beings, angels and the offspring of the Watchers and their human consorts. Angels are said to observe the Sabbath (2:17-22, 30), celebrate Shevuot (Festival of Weeks) (6:18) and are born circumcised (15:27)  (See 1.14; 2.24; 3:14; 21:5; 49:1; 50:6; 39:6 for references to God's requirements without recourse to the idea of the heavenly tablets.)  Many of these laws engraved on the heavenly tablets are explicitly said to apply only to Israel (49:7-8; 50:13; 16:29); others are implicitly intended for Israel, insofar as they are unique to Israel's religious life (3:10-11; 15:25-26; 32:10-11; 32:15, 28)  (An exception is the celebration of Shevuot, which according to 6:17, is intended as a remembrance of God's covenant with Noah to be celebrated universally.)

2.2.2. There is a tendency to retroject the Law into the patriarchal period (6:17-19 = Shevuot; 7:3-5 = proper procedure for offering; 7:35-38 = offering of first fruits and sabbatical year; 13:25-27 = tithe); 15:1-2 = Shevuot; 16:20-31 = Tabernacles; 18:17-19 = “The Feast of the Lord,” which seems to be Passover; 21:5-10 = against idolatry, eating of blood and proper procedure for making sacrifices [see Lev 3:7-10]; 22:1-9 = Shevuot; 32:10 = second tithe; 32:4-8 = Levi’s discharging office of priest according to the Law; 34:12-20 = Day of Atonement).

2.2.3. In one case, there is a sensitivity to what might appear at first glance to be the arbitrariness of the Law. According to Lev 12:2-5, a woman is impure for seven days if she give birth to a boy, but is impure for fourteen if she gives birth to a girl. Similarly, she must wait forty days before she can enter the Temple when she has given birth to a boy, and eighty days when she has given birth to a girl. The author explains that this difference in time is not arbitrary but is owing to the fact that Eve was not shown to Adam until the second week, eight days after the forty days that Adam waited before entering Eden (3:8-14). The principle is established that there are different waiting periods for males and females. Adam had to wait forty days to enter Eden, whereas Eve had to wait longer, in fact a week longer than Adam.

2.2.4. A set of heavenly tablets also exist in order to make a record of the moral actions of human beings and the appropriate judgment corresponding to each action: "And the judgment of all of them has been ordained and written in the heavenly tablets without injustice" (5:13; see also 16:9; 19:9; 28:6; 39:6).  (The judgment meted out is appropriate to the sin [see 4:31; 48:14].)  It seems that the angels report to God all the sins that have been committed on earth, which, presumably, are then recorded in the heavenly tablets (4:6). (Examples of bookkeeping in the Old Testament include: Isa 65:6; Dan 12:1; Mal 3:16, 18.) The massacre of the Shechemites by Levi and Simeon, avenging the defilement and shame of their sister Dinah, for example, is recorded in the heavenly tablets to their credit: "It was a righteousness for them, and it was written down for them as righteousness" (30:17b). As a reward for his action, Levi is given an eternal priesthood, and it is said that "a blessing and righteousness will be written (on high) as a testimony for him in the heavenly tablets before the God of all" (30:20). Following this account, the general warning is given to the children of Israel that if they obey God's commandments, they will be written down in the heavenly tablets as friends; but, if they disobey, they will be recorded as enemies (30:21-22) (References to this book of life, in which God records the names of the righteous, are found in 30:22; 36:10) There is a also reference to the book of the discipline of mankind, but it is not clear what this is (36:10). Heavenly tablets are also used to record future historical events, which implies a predeterminism of sorts (see 16.3; 23:32; 31:32; 32:21-24).

2.2.5.  Specifications for Sabbath observance are provided in Jub. 2:29-33 and 50:6-13.

Jub. 2:17-33

29 Declare and say to the children of Israel the law of this day both that they should keep Sabbath thereon, and that they should not forsake it in the error of their hearts; (and) that it is not lawful to do any work thereon which is unseemly, to do thereon their own pleasure, and that they should not prepare thereon anything to be eaten or drunk, and (that it is not lawful) to draw water, or bring in or take out thereon through their gates any burden, 30 which they had not prepared for themselves on the sixth day in their dwellings. And they shall not bring in nor take out from house to house on that day; for that day is more holy and blessed than any jubilee day of the jubilees; on this we kept Sabbath in the heavens before it was made 31 known to any flesh to keep Sabbath thereon on the earth. And the Creator of all things blessed it, but he did not sanctify all peoples and nations to keep Sabbath thereon, but Israel alone: them 32 alone he permitted to eat and drink and to keep Sabbath thereon on the earth. And the Creator of all things blessed this day which He had created for blessing and holiness and glory above all 33 days.

Jub. 50:6-13

6 And behold the commandment regarding the Sabbaths—I have written (them) down for you—7 and all the judgments of its laws. Six days shalt thou labour, but on the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no manner of work, you and your sons, and your men— 8 servants and your maid-servants, and all your cattle and the sojourner also who is with you. And the man that does any work on it shall die: whoever desecrates that day, whoever lies with (his) wife, or whoever says he will do something on it, that he will set out on a journey thereon in regard to any buying or selling: and whoever draws water thereon which he had not prepared for himself on the sixth day, and whoever takes up any burden to carry it out of his tent or out of his house 9 shall die. You shall do no work whatever on the Sabbath day save what ye have prepared for yourselves on the sixth day, so as to eat, and drink, and rest, and keep Sabbath from all work on that day, and to bless the Lord your God, who has given you a day of festival and a holy day: and 10 a day of the holy kingdom for all Israel is this day among their days for ever. For great is the honour which the Lord has given to Israel that they should eat and drink and be satisfied on this festival day, and rest thereon from all labour which belongs to the labour of the children of men save burning frankincense and bringing oblations and sacrifices before the Lord for days and for 11 Sabbaths. This work alone shall be done on the Sabbath-days in the sanctuary of the Lord your God; that they may atone for Israel with sacrifice continually from day to day for a memorial well-pleasing before the Lord, and that He may receive them always from day to day according as thou 12 hast been commanded. And every man who does any work thereon, or goes a journey, or tills (his) farm, whether in his house or any other place, and whoever lights a fire, or rides on any beast, or travels by ship on the sea, and whoever strikes or kills anything, or slaughters a beast or a bird, or 13 whoever catches an animal or a bird or a fish, or whoever fasts or makes war on the Sabbaths.

2.3. Angels

In the Book of Jubilees, there are numerous references to angels, good and evil. The good angels are servants of God, whereas the evil angels oppose God and seek to lead human beings astray.

The good angels as servants were created on the first day of creation (Jub. 2:2) and exist in a hierarchy. Two of the higher ranks of angels are called “the angels of the Presence” and “the angels of sanctification,” who are born circumcised (2:2, 18; 15:27). (Israel belongs with God and his holy angels.) There seems also to be a lesser rank of angels, to whom is given control of nature, so that they are named according to their function (e.g., angels of the spirit of the winds) (2:2-3). Good angels also teach skills to human beings (3:15; 12:26-27), reveal God’s will to them (12:22), test them (19:3), report their sins to God (4:6), announce future events (16:1-4, 16), reveal cosmic secrets (4:21), bind evil spirits (10:9-10) and assist those who are attacked by forces of evil (48:4, 13).

Alongside the good angels there are evil angels who oppose God, and seek to lead human beings into sin. Chief among these is a being called Beliar, Satan or (Prince) Mastema (1:20; 16:33-34 [Beliar]; 11:5, 10; 17:15-16; 18:9; 19:28; 47:9-18 [Mastema]; 10:11; 23:29; 40:10; 46:2 [Satan]). Other evil spirits are under his authority (11:5). The Watchers are a class of angels sent to the world for the purpose of helping human beings (4:15), but who became wrongfully involved sexually with human women. As punishment they were bound in the middle of the earth (5:6-11; 7:21-22). Although the children of the Watchers died in the flood, afterwards their spirits roamed the earth assaulting human beings and seeking to lead them astray. When Noah prays for protection from these evil spirits, God orders that nine tenths of them be bound, leaving only one tenth under the authority of Satan (10:1-14). The influence of the fallen angels and evil spirits is so pervasive that they are able to lead astray all the nations; in fact, they are said to rule over nations. Only Israel is potentially exempt from their influence, because God has chosen to rule over Israel (15:31-32). Nevertheless, it is possible for an individual to come under the influence of the spirit of Beliar (1:20) or the spirit of Mastema (19:28), meaning to allow oneself to be dominated by his influence. Abraham, recognizing the spiritual peril that evil spirits pose, prays: "Save me from the hands of evil spirits which rule over the thought of the heart of man, and do not let them lead me astray from following you, O my God" (12:20).

2.4. Solar Calendar

The proper method of marking the passage of time is the “movements” of the sun (solar calendar) (6:23-31); in fact this was one the purposes for which the sun was created (2:9). This means that the year is to be 364 days long, consisting of four quarters of 13 weeks (13 x 7 = 91 days; 4 x 91 = 364 days) (see 6:32-38). This calendar includes four “days of remembrance” after the solstices and the equinoxes (6:23-29). This solar calendar is equally divisible by seven into fifty-two weeks, which means that the Sabbaths and the festival days will always fall on the same day of the month for every year. These four units of thirteen weeks are each also divided into three non-lunar months of thirty days each (360 days); to these twelve months are added the "days of remembrance" before the the first, fourth, seventh and tenth months (360 + 4 = 364 days) (6:23-29). Since God created the sun on the fourth day, the year must always begin on a Wednesday (Gen 1:14-19). The festivals always fall on the same day of the week and same day of the month each year, which is never on the Sabbath. (As already indicated, there is a probable reference to 1 En. 72-82 in Jub. 4:17.) The larger units of marking the passing of time are the “week” (period of seven years) and the jubilee (7 x 7 = 49 years). The fiftieth year is the biblical year of jubilee. Throughout the Book of Jubilees, the author attempts to date all significant events by this method dating by weeks (seven year periods) and jubilees (forty-nine year periods). What is rejected is the lunar calendar consisting of 354 days, with six months having twenty-eight days and six months having twenty-nine days.

2.5. Eschatology

The angel of the Presence more than once reveals to Moses what will take place at the end.  It is revealed to him that the Israelites will forsake God, but after exile will turn back to Him. When they seek Him, they will return from the nations, God will establish them, build His sanctuary in their midst and dwell with them (1:15-18) (see also 1:27-28; 25:21). It is clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with Israel. The author holds that Israel's failure to keep the covenant with God is inevitable until the dawn of eschatological salvation. In 1:7-14, in dependence on Deut 31:14-21, it is revealed to Moses that the Israelites will apostasy and be exiled as punishment. Upon hearing of this bleak future, Moses intercedes on behalf of the people, imploring God that he might prevent the apostasy of the people by creating for them "an upright spirit" (1:20). God responds by saying that when in exile the people return to him "in all uprighteousness and with all their heart and soul," he will effect the national spiritual transformation requested by Moses: "And I shall cut off the foreskin of their heart and the foreskin of the heart of their descendents" (1:23). Clearly dependent on Deut 30:1-10, the author interprets the period up to the exile as the period of Israel's inevitable failure; this is only remedied by God's act of eliminating all possibility of future apostasy by circumcising the hearts of the Israelites and their descendents (Deut 30:6). The Lord continues, "And I shall create for them a spirit of holiness, and I shall purify them so that they will not turn away from following me from that day and forever" (1:23; see also 50:5). Parallel to the idea of an eschatological circumcision of the heart is that of the creation of a spirit of holiness and God's purification of his people. The creation of a spirit of holiness is God's implanting of a disposition towards holiness in his people; similarly, purification is the removal of the disposition to sin. The result of God's creating a spirit of holiness for the Israelites and his purification of them is that the people will henceforth keep the commandments, never again turning away from God. Probably, the author sees his own time as the beginning of God’s eschatological blessings.  (This means that the author believes that the end did not to come immediately upon return from the Babylonian exile, but was postponed for a few centuries.)

Of further significance is the aforementioned eschatological prophecy in Jub. 23:14-31, consisting of a prose section (23:14-23a) followed by a poem (13:23b-31). If read as a systematic unity, Jub. 23:14-31 foresees a multi-stage eschatological process. First, the younger generation will rebel and rebuke the older for its apostasy, which has resulted in national destitution (23:14-20); this seems to lead to something like a civil war between the righteous and the apostates (23:20). Second, those who escape from this armed struggle will not turn back from evil, but will pollute the sanctuary (23:21). Third, the result of this persistent obstinacy will be God's judgment in the form of gentile oppressors (23:22-25). Fourth, in the context of this oppression, the younger generation will "return to the way of righteousness" (23:26). Finally, the renewed nation will successfully fight the eschatological war against the gentiles (see also 24:30), leading to peace and rejoicing (23:29), after which God will bring judgment on the enemies of the people (23:30) (see also 9:14-15; 36:10). The eschaton will also see the gradual increase of life spans until they approach a thousand years (23:27-29a), and, in those days, "there will be no Satan or evil (one) who will destroy" (23:29b), so that the righteous will no longer be troubled by these perverse spirits. Read sequentially, Jub. 23:14-31 describes two rebellions, one before Antiochus IV and the other after his accession as king (see Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, chap. 5).

The author probably identified the older, apostate generation with those Jews who co-operated in the implementation of Antiochus' program of Hellenization. It follows that the gentile oppressors in Jub. 23:23-25 should be identified as the Seleucids, in which case, ironically, those who suffer most under God's wrath are the righteous minority within the nation. The Maccabean uprising marked the beginning of the younger generation's "return to the way of righteousness" (23:26). Soon those who have risen up in revolt against the Hellenizing reforms would know God's eschatological vindication and blessing, but not before much suffering. Nothing is said of the fate of the righteous who die before the eschaton and therefore cannot benefit from their righteousness. It is explained, however, that the spirits of righteous dead, presumably in heaven, will be cognizant of the unfolding of these eschatological events, and will rejoice accordingly (23:31). This seems to presuppose some sort of post-mortem blessedness for the righteous.

There will be a final judgment of all human beings. In Jub. 24:33 it is said that the heavenly tablets that record the moral actions of human beings will be used as the basis of eschatological condemnation on the day of judgment. (This is the time when the angels (Watchers) imprisoned in depths of the earth will be judged [5:10-13].)  This implies that all human beings—dead and alive—will be judged. The reason that human beings are free and responsible, and can, therefore, be judged, is that after the flood God brought into being a new possibility of obedience, which did not exist in antediluvian times: "And he made for all his works a new and righteous nature so that they might not sin in all their nature forever, and so that they might all be righteous, each in his kind always" (5:12). The creation of the possibility of righteousness did not guarantee actual righteousness; rather, it only guaranteed that human beings would be free to choose to be righteous or not. Human depravity was no longer an inevitability, as it was before the flood.

It is important to note that there is no explicit reference to a Messiah in the Book of Jubilees. It seems that eschatological salvation comes to Israel without the need of a messianic mediator; this is especially true in Jub. 23:14-31. There may, however, be a reference to the Davidic or royal messiah in Jacob's blessing of Judah: "And with you will be the help of Jacob and with you will be found the salvation of Israel. And on that day when you sit on your righteous throne of honor, there will be great peace for all the seed of the beloved's sons" (Jub. 31:19-20a).

2.6. Supremacy of Priests

The author holds that God has granted supremacy to Levi and his descendents: Levi is chosen by God to be a priest because of his zeal in killing the foreigners who defiled his sister, Dinah. He is the first to be blessed by his father Jacob (30-32). In addition, Jacob entrusts Levi with his books and his father’s books (45:15); this library must have included copies of the seven tablets allegedly revealed to Jacob in a dream, showing the entire course of human history (32:21-26). Levi’s role of preserver of Jacob’s library points to the author’s view that priests are to be the scholars and teachers of the nation.

2.7. Possibility of the Removal of Guilt

In the Book of Jubilees, even though God as righteous judges gives to each Jew in history and eschatologically what their free choices deserve, God as merciful is willing to remove the guilt resulting from sin. This means that it is possible for Jews to avoid the consequences of their sins. In his blessing of his grandson, Jacob, Abraham says, “May he [God] cleanse you from all sin and defilement, so that he might forgive all your transgressions and your erring through ignorance” (22:14). Naturally, for the author, what is said to Jacob would apply to his descendents. The exact interrelationship among these terms is difficult to determine from the context. Likely, however, being cleansed from sin and defilement means the removal of guilt resulting from sin. This seems to be synonymous with God’s forgiveness of transgressions and sins of ignorance. That “transgressions” refer to intentional sins and the “sins of ignorance” to unintentional sins is possible, but more likely the two terms together denote sins in general.

God provides means by which violations of his commandments can be atoned, but these are given only to Israel. (This is consistent with Israel’s unique status as those separated from the nations to be God’s own people of God [2:19-24].) The author interprets the daily morning and evening sacrifices as effecting atonement for the people. This is why the performance of this is exempt from the Sabbath prohibition against work (6:14; 50:11). Similarly, since Abraham’s sacrifices during his observance of the Festival of Tabernacles are said to atone for his sins and those of his seed (16:22), it is probably the author’s view that sacrifices offered during the annual festivals were atoning. It is likely, however, that such cultic benefits are not available to the wicked, who disqualify themselves by their sin from receiving atonement by means of the cult. But by far the most important provision for the atonement of sins is the Day of Atonement, which the author understands as God’s preeminent provision of mercy. In Jub. 5:17, he affirms, “And for the children of Israel it has been written and ordained, ‘If they return to him in righteousness, he will forgive all of their sins and he will pardon all of their transgressions’.” Juxtaposed to this is the assurance that “He will have mercy on all who return from their error, once each year” (5:18). This annual possibility of national atonement no doubt refers to the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). Probably, Jub. 5:17-18 derives from Lev 16:34 “This shall be an eternal statute for you, to make atonement for the people of Israel once a year for all their sins.” An important addition to the biblical text, however, is the phrase “on all who return from their error”: a condition of receiving atonement on this day is repentance. (According to Jub. 5:19, the annual possibility of atonement was not given before the flood; only to Noah and his sons did God show mercy.) Later, the author explains that the reason that the Day of Atonement is on the tenth day of the seventh month is because this was the day on which Jacob learned of Joseph’s presumed fate: it is appropriate that the descendants of the sons of Jacob mourn on the day that his sons caused him to mourn (34:18). The author then says about the purpose of the religious rite: “And this day is decreed so that they might mourn on it on account of their sins and on account of their transgressions and on account of all their errors in order to purify themselves on this day, once a year” (34:19). The use of three different terms to denote ways in which the Israelites have fallen short of God’s standard of righteousness seems to imply that all sins can be atoned for on the Day of Atonement. (This statement of the purpose of the Day of Atonement is dependent upon Lev 16:21.) There seems to be no restrictions on the possibility of atonement for individuals within the nation who fast and sincerely seek cleansing from sins on this day.

Numerous references to unforgivable sins in the Book of Jubilees might lead one to conclude that not all sins are forgivable, even on the Day of Atonement. In agreement with the Torah, sins unto death include not circumcising one’s son (15:34), intermarrying with gentiles (30:7–17), having sexual relations with the wife of one’s father (33:10–17), not celebrating Passover (49:9), eating blood (6:12) and breaking the Sabbath (2:25, 27; 50:8). For the author, to be executed for such sins is to be excluded from eternal life: “Let him die eternally” (2:27). The case of Judah, however, renders this conclusion far from certain. Judah sinned by having sexual relations with his daughter-in-law, an offense liable to death in the Torah (Lev 18:15; 20:12). The author explains that Judah did not die for his sin because he sinned in ignorance, not knowing the true identity of Tamar and because he repented and sought God’s forgiveness (41). The angel tells Moses: “And we told him [Judah] in a dream that it was forgiven him because he made great supplication and because he mourned and did not do it again” (41:24). Because Judah mourned for and turned from his sin of ignorance, there was forgiveness for him (41:25). If Judah could be forgiven for a sin liable to extirpation in the Torah, perhaps others can also. Those who commit the sins unto death are those who have fundamentally rejected the religion of the father, which, for the author, probably refers to his Hellenizing compatriots. Their sins are deliberate acts of rebellion and would not be classifiable as “unintentional sins.”

2.8. Nationalism and Racial Purity

According to the author of the Book of Jubilees, t is important that the Jews maintain their racial purity and national identity. The author retrojects this value into the patriarchal period to give credence to his view. Levi and Simeon’s slaughtering of the Shechemites is interpreted positively as their resistance to intermarrying with gentiles (30:7-17). This is another example of the author's modification of his biblical source, because in Genesis Jacob condemns for sons for this act (Gen 34; 49:5-7). Likewise, Simeon, contrary to the biblical account, is portrayed as repenting for marrying a Canaanite woman 34:20; see Gen 46:10).

2.9. Zion as the Navel of the Earth

Jerusalem is said to be one of the three holy places on earth, the other two being Eden and Mt Sinai (8:19-20).  Zion is called the navel of the earth, which in the context seems to mean the culture center of the earth. (8:19)
 

3. Reading

Book of Jubilees  (From R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament)

 


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