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Book of Jashar

BOOK OF JASHAR (Heb. סֵפֶר הַיָּשָׁר, Sefer ha-Yashar; "the upright [one]'s book"), one of the lost source books of early Israelite poetry from which the writers in the books of Joshua and Samuel excerpted Joshua's command to the sun and the moon in Joshua 10: 12b–13a and David's lament for Saul and Jonathan in II Sam. 1:19–27, as indicated by the accompanying citations. The command to the sun and moon is an archaic poetic unit embedded in the later prose narrative of the victory against a five-king coalition and in defense of Gibeon, a covenant ally. The narrative provides a prosaic interpretation of the couplet, in keeping with the book's presentation of the conquest as a divine miracle and not Israel's victory. In itself the couplet reflects the early Israelite understanding of the Federation's wars as sacral events, with God as commander in chief directing tactics through the agency of heavenly powers who are conceived as members of the divine Sovereign's court (cf. how the stars "fought against Sisera" in Judg. 5:20). The lament for Saul and Jonathan is unquestionably a genuine literary attestation of David's poetic talent and it helps to explain the later attribution of many biblical psalms to David. Probably a third excerpt from the Book of Jashar is found in I Kings 8:12–13, a couplet embedded in Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple, which survives in fullest form in the septuagint version. In the latter, the couplet appears at the end of the prayer and is followed by a notation in verbatim agreement with the one of Joshua 10:13, directing the reader to the book of Shir ("Song"). It has been suggested that the latter may stem from an accidental metathesis of letters (šyr for yšr), which is not uncommon among copyists' errors. See *Book of the Wars of the Lord for another and possibly related anthology, tenth century and earlier, to which historians of Israel and Judah turned for such poetic excerpts. The Talmud (Av. Zar. 25a) homiletically identifies the Book of Jashar with the "book of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (i.e., Genesis), who were "upright." A quasi-historical work of the 13th century bears the same title (see *Sefer ha-Yashar ).


Thackeray, in: JTS (1910), 518–32.

[Robert G. Boling]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.