The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia


One of the latest works of the midrashic Haggadah; known also under the titles "Toledot Adam" and "Dibre ha-Yamim be-'Aruk." It is written in correct and fluent Hebrew, and treats of the history of the Jews from the time of Adam to that of the Judges. Three-fourths of the work is devoted to the pre-Mosaic period, one-fifth to the Mosaic period, and only three pages to later history. In his endeavors to explain all Biblical subjects the author invented entire narratives, interweaving them with certain passages of the Bible.


Among such narratives and additions originating with the author may be especially mentioned an explanation of the murder of Abel by Cain, and also an extended and ingenious genealogy of the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. In this genealogy the origin of Seir, which Ibn Ezra states to be shrouded in obscurity, is explained by the assertion that Seir was the son of Hur, the grandson of Hori, and the great-grandson of Cainan. The life of Abraham is described at great length, the account beginning with his birth and the appearance of the star (viii. 1-35), and including the smallest details, such as, for example, his two journeys to his son Ishmael (xxi. 22-48). Similar minuteness is displayed with regard to the last days of Sarah and her funeral, which, according to the author, was attended not only by Shem, Eber, Aner, Eshkol, and Mamre, but also by Canaanitish kings with their retinues (xxii. 41-44). The enumeration of the doctrines which the three Patriarchs received through Shem and Eber also occupies considerable space; and the life of Joseph is depicted in an especially impressive manner (xxxvii.-xli.).

In connection with the different "blessings" which Jacob before his death gave to his sons, the author depicts the bloody warfare waged between the kings of Canaan and the sons of Israel on account of the violation of Dinah, the war ending with the victory of Israel (xxxiv.-xxxv.). In the history of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt and of their exodus from that country are also interwoven several legends, though these lack the completeness that marks the narratives of the pre-Mosaic history (part ii.). The author, moreover, gives an entire song of Joshua, which is merely indicated in the book of that prophet (x. 13); but this consists only of Biblical passages artistically put together.


In the compiling of the work the following sources were made use of, namely: the Babylonian Talmud; Bereshit Rabbah; Pirḳe R. Eliezer; the Yalḳut; the Chronicle of Moses; Yosippon; Midrash Abkir; and various Arabic legends. As to the place and time of the work's origin various legendary accounts are given in the preface of the first edition (Naples, 1552).

Modern Translations.

In 1750 the London printer Thomas Ilive issued an English translation of the work, asserting that he had published the real "Book of Yashar" mentioned in the Bible; and in 1828 the London "Courier" (Nov. 8) reported that a man from Gazan in Persia, by name Alcurin (Noah has "Alcuin"), had discovered the book named after Joshua, and brought it with him to London. Eleven days later (Nov. 19) a Jew of Liverpool named Samuel reported in the same paper that he was working on a translation of this work, which he had obtained in North Africa. Zunz thereupon found himself compelled to assert, in the "Berliner Nachrichten" of Nov. 29, 1828, that the work mentioned was the same as that published in Naples in 1552 or 1613; and in his "Gottesdienstliche Vorträge," 1832, thesame author declared that the book originated in Spain in the twelfth century. That Italy, however, was the land of its origin seems evident from the author's knowledge of Italian names, as Tuscany, Lombardy, and the Tiber (x. 7-36), and also from the description of the rape of the Sabines (xvii. 1-14). The appearance of Arabic names, such as Sa'id, Allah, Abdallah, and Khalif, only tends to show that the book was written in southern Italy, where Arabic influence was strongly felt even in the eleventh century.


The "Yashar" has appeared in the following editions: Naples, 1552; Venice, 1625; Cracow, 1628; Prague, 1668; Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1706; Amsterdam, 1707; Constantinople, 1728; Fürth, 1768; Koretz, 1785; Frankfort-on-the-Oder, 1789; Grodno, 1795; Lemberg, 1816 and 1840; Warsaw, 1846; Wilna, 1848; Lemberg, 1850; Wilna, 1852; Warsaw, 1858. It was translated into Judæo-German by Jacob ha-Levi, and published with various annotations and Arabic glosses (Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1674; Sulzbach, 1783). A Latin version by Johann G. Abicht appeared in Leipsic in the middle of the eighteenth century under the title "Dissertatio de Libro Recti." The work was first translated into English by Thomas Ilive, as mentioned above, and later by M. M. Noah under the title "The Book of Yashar" (New York, 1840).

  • The passages mentioned in this article refer to the New York edition, since the Hebrew editions are not divided into either chapters or paragraphs.
  • See also Zunz, G. V. 2d ed., pp. 162-165 and notes;
  • Carmoly, in Jost's Annalen, 1839, i., No. 19, pp. 149-150;
  • M. M. Noah, in preface to The Book of Yashar, New York, 1840;
  • Benjacob, Oẓar ha-Sefarim, p. 233;
  • Fürst, Bibl. Jud. ii. 111;
  • Israel Lévi, Une Anecdote sur Pharaon, in R. E. J. xviii. 130.
J. S. O.
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