The Book of Jasher is one of the “lost books of the Bible”. It is cited in two passages in the Tanak (Joshua 10:13 and 2Sam. 1:18). The name “Book of Jasher” is a bit misleading. This was not a book written by someone named “Jasher”. In fact the word “Jasher” (Hebrew: Yashar) means “Upright” so that the Hebrew Sefer HaYashar is “The Upright Book”. The definite article “Ha” tips us off that this is not a person’s name but a modifier for the word “book”.
These are the two references to Jasher in the Tanak:
“And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still
(Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)
(2 Samuel 1:18)
The Book of Jasher passage related to Joshua 10:13 reads as follows:
“And when they were smiting, the day was declining toward evening, and Joshua said in the sight of all the people, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Ajalon, until the nation shall have revenged itself upon its enemies.
And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Joshua, and the sun stood still in the midst of the heavens, and it stood still six and thirty moments, and the moon also stood still and hastened not to go down a whole day.”
The Book of Jasher passage which relates to 2Sam. 1:18 involves Jacob’s last words to his son Judah:
“Only teach thy sons the bow and all weapons of war, in order that
they may fight the battles of their brother who will rule over his
The earliest extant text of the original Hebrew of this book was printed in Venice in 1625. The introduction to the 1625 edition mentions an earlier edition printed in 1552 in Naples, but no copies of this edition have survived. The printer of the 1625 edition was Yosèf ben Samuel who claimed the work was copied by a scribe named Jacob the son of Atyah, from an ancient manuscript whose letters could hardly be made out.
The 1625 edition bears the subheading: "This is the Book of the Generations of Man whom Elohim Created upon the earth on the day when YHWH Elohim made the Earth and Heaven."
The first English translation of the Book of Jasher was that published by Mordecai Manuel Noah and A. S. Gould in 1840. Mordecai Noah was a prominent Jewish American and Statesman. The actual translator iof this ediition was Moses Samuel of Liverpool (1795–1860). In 1886, Joseph Hyrum Parry of Salt Lake City acquired the rights to the translation from Mordecai Noah's estate and a second edition, with fewer notes and preface material was published by J. H. Parry & Company in Salt Lake City in 1887. Both the 1840 and 1878 editions have been frequently reprinted since.
Moses Samuel clearly believed the core material of this Book of Jasher is the one mentioned in the Bible. He wrote:
…the book is, with the exception of some doubtful parts, a venerable monument of antiquity; and that, notwithstanding some few additions have been made to it in comparatively modern times, it still retains sufficient to prove it a copy of the book referred to in Joshua, ch. x, and 2 Samuel, ch. 1.
How the Hebrew text has survived is itself quite an interesting story. In his own recounting of the event of the prolonged day of Joshua 10 the first century Jewish Roman historian Josephus identifies the Book of Jasher mentioned by Joshua as one of “the books laid up in the Temple” (Ant. 5:1:17).
According to the preface to the 1625 edition (translated from the Hebrew):
…when the holy city Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus, all the military heads went in to rob and plunder, and among the officers of Titus was one whose name was Sidrus, who went in to search, and found in Jerusalem a house of great extent…
According to the preface this Sidrus found a false wall in this house with a hidden room. In this room he found an old man hiding with provisions and many books including the Book of Jasher The old man found favor with Sidrus who took the old man and his books with him.
The preface says “they went from city to city and from country to country until they reached Sevilia [a city in Spain].” At that time “Seville” was called “Hispalis” and was the capital of the Roman province of Hispalensis. The manuscript was donated to the Jewish college at Cordova, Spain.
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The Book of Jasher
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