Testament of Dan

Dan begins with a confession that he rejoiced over the death what he thought was the death of Joseph. He so hated his brother that he desired to suck the blood of Joseph (1:9)! This, he claims, was the spirit of Beliar at work within him. Anger is therefore the moral exhortation of this testament. Anger causes blindness (2:2) and darkness of understanding (2:4). It is evil (3:1), and the one who is angry, if he is powerful, has triple strength because of his anger (3:4). Anger is senseless (4:1) even though it seems pleasant at first (4:4). “Anger and falsehood together are a double-edged evil” (4:7). Once again there are two ways, the Law of the Lord or the ways of Beliar (5:1-3).

Image result for viper snakeThe apocalyptic section is brief (5:4-13). In the last days people will defect from the Lord, be offended by Levi and revolt against Judah. Notice the importance of Levi (the priesthood) and Judah (the king); this develops into a double-messiah in some Qumran literature, one in the line of Aaron (a priest) and one in the line of David (a king).

Citing the Book of Enoch, people in those days will devote themselves to their prince Satan. OTP 809 note b states there is no text in the Enoch literature which supports this statement. It is possible the writer refers to another, unknown Enoch or he is placing the teaching in the mouth of Enoch. The people of God will undergo persecution and punishment which are compared to the ten plagues (5:8, there may be a parallel here between the plagues and Revelation 8), but after they turn back to the Lord they will be lead back to the holy place by the Lord (5:9). From both the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Levi the Lord’s salvation will come and he (the “Lord’s Salvation”) will make war against Beliar and will take from Beliar the captive souls of the saints. This might be a reference to resurrection, if the saints are captive in Sheol, but if Beliar is to be understood as Rome (cf. T. Issachar 6), then this is a much more revolutionary statement.

After the Lord’s salvation comes, the hearts of the people will turn back to their God and he will “grant eternal peace to all who call upon him” (5:11). This will be a time when the Holy One of Israel will rule over the people (5:12).  In chapter 6 Dan exhorts his children to draw near to the Lord and “cast aside every anger and lie” and cling to the righteousness of God (6:9-11).

The book ends with a cryptic notice that Dan prophesied to his sons that they would do astray from God’s law and they would be estranged from their inheritance (7:1-3). This may refer to the idolatry of Dan in the book of Judges or in the period of the divided kingdom, when Dan was a cult-center for Jeroboam (1 Kings 2:25-33). It is possible there is a tradition here which is reflected in the tribal list of Revelation 7 where the name Dan is missing.

Testament of Zebulon

This testament is fragmentary in Armenian and Slavonic versions and several Greek manuscripts are mission 6.4-8.3 (Kugler, 64). Kugler suggest the text was shortened by later scribes to limit the extravagant claims of compassion made by Zebulon.

The Testament of Zebulon begins with an expansion on the story of Joseph from Genesis 37. Like his brother Issachar, Zebulon claims to have done no wrong other than to participate in harming Joseph, although he claims to have done this in ignorance. In fact, he claims to have been “a good gift to my parents” (1:3). He shifts the blame to Simeon and Gad for the plot to kill Joseph. Zebulon had stayed with Joseph while he was weeping and tried to comfort him (chapter 2), refused a share in the price received for Joseph (3:1). He and Judah refused to eat for two days afterwards (4:1-2). He did not take a share in the proceeds of selling Joseph (chapter 3), but Simeon and Gad took shares and bought themselves shoes (cf., Ruth). It was Dan’s idea to give Jacob the bloody coat (chapter 5).

Chapters 6 and 7 claim Zebulon was a fisherman based on Genesis 49:13, Jacob’s prediction that he would live beside the sea. It was the Lord that gave him the wisdom to build a boat and rudder. He fished for five year while the Lord gave him abundant catches, which he shared with everyone. Zebulon also clothed those who were without anything, showing compassion on everyone.

Compassion is at the heart of the ethical teaching of T.Zebulon. In chapter 8 he tells his children to be compassionate (εὐσπλαγχνία) since the Lord will be compassionate to you in the measure. This is not unlike Matthew 7:2, although Jesus’ point concerns judging others (cf. Mark 4:24). Zebulon tells his children to “provide for every person with a kind heart” even if this causes you trouble. In fact, he claims to have stolen from his own family to provide for a needy man:

Testament of Zebulon 7:1 I saw a man suffering from nakedness in the wintertime and I had compassion on him: I stole a garment secretly from my own household and gave it to the man in difficulty.

In 8:5 the writer says “love one another (ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους), and do not calculate the wrong done by each to his brothers.” This is reminiscent of Jesus in John 15:17 (using the same phrase, cf., 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11; 2 John 5, although the phrase appears in the subjunctive rather than the imperative). The second phrase (καὶ μὴ λογίζεσθε ἕκαστος τὴν κακίαν τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ) calls to mind 1 Corinthians 13:5 (οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν). Both texts describe “loving one another” as “not calculating wrongs.”  The reason brothers ought to love one another is because doing otherwise would shatter unity and scatter all kinship. Chapter 9 returns to the theme loyalty and unity. One must either follow the Law of the Lord or the ways of Beliar. “Do not be divided into two heads” Zebulon warns (9:2), which is then developed into a warning against the split kingdom after Solomon, leading to the exile (9:5-6)

There is very little eschatology in this testament. Zebulon says he has read the “writing of the fathers” and learned “in the last days you shall defect from the Lord” (9:5), but after a time of suffering “the Lord himself will arise upon you, the light of righteousness with healing and compassion in his wings” (9:8). Those who follow the way of Beliar will be trampled down, and the Lord “will turn all nations to being zealous for him.”

Testament of Issachar

The Testament of Issachar is one of the shortest sections of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. It begins with an expansion of the birth of Issachar drawn from Genesis 30:1-24. Unlike the biblical story, there is more dialogue between Rachel and Leah. Rachel accuses Leah of stealing Jacob as husband because Leah gave up her mandrake roots for a night with Jacob. (Mandrake roots were a well-known aphrodisiac in the ancient world, called “love apples” by the Greeks.) She was allowed to only bear six sons, the other two who might have born were given to Rachel (chapter 2).

Image result for mandrakeIt seems odd, however, that Rachel is rewarded for “despising intercourse with her husband” and offering the mandrakes at the house of the Lord instead of eating them herself. Perhaps this is a part of the “women are evil” theme sounded in the early testaments. Rachel is not evil because she wanted to sleep with her husband for the purpose of children, not sexual gratification (2:4).

Issachar describes himself as a quiet farmer who did not meddle in the affairs of others (ch. 3) who has “integrity of heart.” His integrity is blessed by the Lord and is the basis of the moral exhortation of this Testament. The “man of integrity” is described in chapter 4. He does not desire gold or defraud his neighbor; he does not desire fancy foods or wear fine clothes. He does not plan to live a long life but rather waits on the plan of God. “Bend your back in farming, perform the tasks of the soil in every kind of agriculture, offering gifts to the Lord gratefully” (5:3).

He claims never to have committed adultery or even looked promiscuously at another woman (7:2); he was never drunk (7:3); never coveted (7:3); never lied (7:4); always shared his bread (7:5); and always acted piously (7:6). He commends his children do the same, and the “spirits of Beliar will flee from you (7:7; cf., James 4:7). Like Judah, he is buried in Hebron (7:8-9). There is a “simple life” ethic in this testament: work hard and mind your own business. We encounter a similar ethic in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, where Paul urges his readers to lead a quiet life and to work with their hands. This theme is repeated in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 in more stern language.

Chapter 6 is a mini-apocalypse, although it is very brief. In the last times people will abandon the way of life Issachar has described and they will abandon agriculture for “their own evil schemes.” This is described as following Beliar, not the Lord (6:2-3).

Perhaps this is a reflection of the growing tension between rural areas of Palestine and the Greco-Roman cities such as Sepphoris and Tiberias. These cities were established as commercial centers, not farming villages and likely drew some of the youthful population to work in industry rather than the family farm. The famous prodigal son of Luke 15 was a young man who sold his inheritance (of farm land) and went to the city to find his fortune.

Apocalyptic in the Testament of Judah

Image result for "Iron scepter"Testament of Judah chapters 20-25 are a mini-apocalypse. The reader is first commanded to love Levi because the priesthood is superior to anything on earth (21:2-3). Reflecting the later history of the priesthood and monarchy, Levi was given heavenly matters and Judah was given earthly matters. If the T.Judah has a Maccabean period origin, these words could to be taken as anti-Hasmonean (Kugler, 59).

In the times to come the people will be taken captive (21:6-8) and false prophets will come (21:9); there will be factions among the priests of Israel (22:1-3) until the time of salvation finally comes. Since this book is written well after the events of the biblical histories of Samuel and Kings, the writer predicts apostasy, exile and restoration.

Testament of Judah 22 The Lord will instigate among them factions set against each other and conflicts will persist in Israel. My rule shall be terminated by men of alien race, until the salvation of Israel comes, until the coming of the God of righteousness, so that Jacob may enjoy tranquility and peace, as well as all the nations. He shall preserve the power of my kingdom forever. With an oath the Lord swore to me that the rule would not cease for my posterity.

The people will become increasingly wicked (chapter 23 is a “sin list” which results in judgment of God.) After this time the Star will rise from Jacob and one of Judah’s descendants will be like the sun of righteousness. The “star from Jacob” is found in the Balaam oracles, Numbers 24:17. Note the connection between the Star and the Scepter; in a Testament context, Gen 49:10, we are told the scepter will not depart from Judah. Both the Star and the Scepter are messianic images in the Hebrew Bible.

This future ruler will be gentle, sinless, with a spirit of blessing from his Holy Father. An outpouring of the spirit of God in the eschatological age was expected: Isa 11:1, 621:11, Joel 3:1 (MT). He is the “Shoot of God Most High” and a fountain of life for all humanity. The “shoot” is a messianic title drawn from Isaiah 11:1, Jer 23:5, 33:15, Zech 3:8, 6:12, CD 1:7.

This is by far the most messianic section in the T.Judah. While some might be tempted to find Christian interpolations in the chapter, it is very much part of the fabric of Old Testament messianic prophecy. This persecution – rescue – messianic age pattern is well known in the apocalyptic literature as well, especially 1 Enoch. In short, there is no reason to see this section as anything other than a reflection of typical messianic expectations in the century or so before Christ.

Chapter 25 connects the resurrection of Old Testament “saints” to the coming messianic age. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all twelve of the sons will be raised to life and “wield the scepter” in Israel. During the period after this resurrection there “one people of the Lord” who will speak a single language. The power of Beliar will be no more because he will be thrown into the everlasting fires (25:3, cf. Rev. 2:1-3). Most significantly, “And those who died in sorrow shall be raised in joy; and those who died in poverty for the Lord’s sake shall be made rich; those who died on account of the Lord shall be wakened to life” (25:4). The first two of these lines are similar to Jesus’s beatitudes (Matthew 5:3, the poor will received the kingdom; 5:4, mourners will be comforted). The third tracks with Matthew 5:10 and Revelation 20, the ones who have lost their life for Jesus’s sake will be raised.

It is possible this section has been influenced by Revelation 20 (resurrection of dead saints and suppression of the power of evil), but Judah and the other sons of Jacob rule over this “one people of God.” But there is no explicit statement that the coming Star from Jacob will rule for a period after the resurrection. And unlike Revelation, there is no time-frame given for the new age.

Women and Money in the Testament of Judah

The first twelve chapters of the Testament of Judah recount the military adventures of Judah. This section is laced with legendary elements pitting Judah against the “two armor-clad kings of the Canaanites” In 4:7 Jacob killed a giant twelve cubits tall named Belisath. This is obviously influenced by David and Goliath in 1 Sam 21, probably because David was from the tribe of Judah. Later, Judah admits to a sexual relationship with Anan, one manuscript reads Bathshua (cf. Gen. 38:12) but the name sounds enough like Bathsheba to suggest a connection. In 17:1 Judah says he was led astray by Bathshua the Canaanite, likely alluding to his famous ancestor’s sin with Bathsheba.

Jacob never feared for Judah’s life because he had a vision of an angel who watched over Judah in battle (3:10). There are other legendary expansions on the biblical story of Jacob in these opening chapters, such as Judah attacking the sons of Esau and forces them to pay tribute (ch. 9) and an expansion on Judah’s sin with Tamar (ch. 9-10, cf. Gen. 38). Judah claims he spent seventy years in Egpyt (12:11), an allusion to the seventy years of Judah’s exile in Babylon.

The second half of the book deals with ethical commands (chapters 12-20). Lust (12), drunkenness (13, 16), promiscuity (14), and the love of money (17, 19 although lust is the main topic even here) are specifically mentioned. These issues are often tied to the biblical story of Judah and Tamar. Occasionally the author cites the Book of Enoch, although it possible he did not actually know the book (18:1). Chapter 20 puts the issue of ethical living in terms of black-and-white, as did the T.Levi. One either follows the spirit of truth or the spirit of error.

Most of the ethical material is similar to other Jewish wisdom literature and there are parallels in the New Testament. For example love of money leads to idolatry, as in Eph. 5:5 and Col. 3:5. In T.Judah 14:1 the author tells his children to not get drunk since it clouds the mind. Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 5:18 used the same words (μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ), and in T.Judah 16:1 wine is associated with debauchery, using ἀσωτία, the same work Paul used in the Ephesians passage.

T.Judah 14:1 Do not be drunk with wine, because wine perverts the mind from the truth, arouses the impulses of desire, and leads the eyes into the path of error.

T.Judah 16:1 Take care to be temperate with wine, my children; for there are in it four evil spirits: desire, heated passion, debauchery, and sordid greed.

Since Judah was well-known for his sin with Tamar, he tells his children to live prudently and avoid drunkenness because it leads to sexual immorality. In fact, Judah says “I command you not to love money or to gaze on the beauty of women” (17:1). The “love of money” (φιλαργυρίας) is found in the New Testament only in 1 Tim 6:10, a text with affinities to the Testament of Judah.

In T.Judah 20 the author develops a “two ways” ethic reminiscent of Paul or 1 John. There are “two spirits await an opportunity with humanity: the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Paul uses the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, and 1 John uses the exact same words as T.Judah 20:1, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης. It is certainly possible John knew the Testament of Judah, but it is more likely this simply reflects the common ethical “two ways” theology based on the Law and Psalm 1. It is not insignificant that the choice between life and death in Deuteronomy 30:11 is set in the context of Moses’s final words to Israel. Joshua made a similar speech in Joshua 23-24, calling all Israel to choose to follow the covenant God made with Moses.

These high ethical demands are likely the reason Christians copied and read books like the Testament of Judah.