Sunday, 1 July 2012

The book of Jashar

I read 2 Samuel 1 this morning, (from the REB) leaving out the gory bits (about the death of the Amalekite messenger). Why do translations write about the book of Jashar (REB and loads of others)? The construct (עַל־סֵפֶר הַיָּשָֽׁר) implies that Jashar is not a proper name. 

Note Lambdin - a proper name does not take the definite article, and a proper name does not require a definite article to make the phrase include 'the' in English. So this is not 'the book of Jasher' but the book of the upright.

Upright gives more poignancy to the lament of David that follows. Jonathan and Saul - in spite of all the difficulty are still written in the Book of the Just. (Good news).

and he said to teach the children of Judah --- behold, it is written in the book of the upright...
וַיֹּאמֶר לְלַמֵּד בְּנֵֽי־יְהוּדָה קָשֶׁת הִנֵּה כְתוּבָה עַל־סֵפֶר הַיָּשָֽׁר׃

Now - what's קָשֶׁת (bow) doing in that sentence?


  1. Bob,

    I haven’t thought about this much but I wonder if we might be dealing with an abbreviated incipit. The first word(s) of the work is/are either סֵפֶר הַיָּשָֽׁר or just הַיָּשָֽׁר. As to קָשֶׁת, the JPS renders the first part of the verse, “He order the Judites to be taught [The Song] of the Bow.” If this is correct, with קָשֶׁת we are likely dealing with a traditional title or an abbreviated incipit. קָשֶׁת is the traditional title or an (abbreviated) incipit for something and סֵפֶר הַיָּשָֽׁר is an abbreviated incipit for the book in which one can find the work called קָשֶׁת. If קָשֶׁת is an abbreviated incipit rather than some traditional title then what follows in 2 Sam.1 is not (exactly) that song because it doesn’t start with קָשֶׁת. See 2 Sam. 1:22b which begins קֶשֶׁת. If it is a traditional title then what follows may refer to the poem that follows as a whole. Interestingly, קָשֶׁת, is missing in the Old Greek for 2 Sam. 1:18.

  2. Hi Duane - thanks for the ideas - good to hear from you. I am off to the wilderness north for a week - out of internet range!! (how will I survive?)

    REB paraphrases - he ordered that this dirge over them should be taught to the people of Judah. (Gets it over with I guess).