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Book of Jashar

JASHAR, BOOK OF (jā’shar). Quoted in Josh.10.13; 2Sam.1.18; and in LXX of 1Kgs.8.53, this ancient book is thought to have been a collection of poetry, probably odes and psalms in praise of Israel’s heroes and exploits. Many ideas about the book have been advanced: (1) It continued the Song of Deborah (Judg.5.1-Judg.5.31). (2) It contained the book of the law. (3) It vanished during the Babylonian captivity. It was certainly a well-known bit of Hebrew literature. KJV spells the name “Jasher.”

JASHAR, BOOK OF jā’ shər (סֵ֣פֶר הַיָּשָׁ֑ר; LXX ΒιΒλίου του̂ εὐθου̂ς, book of the upright one).

An ancient writing, no longer extant, mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18. Some scholars by transposing two Heb. letters find a possible third reference to the work in the LXX (1 Kings 8:12, 53). The LXX omits the reference to the work in Joshua 10:13.

On the basis of the quotations in the OT, it has been inferred by some scholars that the book was poetical in nature, which contained songs of a national character. The references in the OT to the book are made in such a way as to imply that it was well known and respected, and consequently other references, though not positively identified, could be present in the OT. The origin of the book is a matter of speculation, and it is generally believed that it was the result of a gradual compilation of material. On the basis of the Biblical references, it appears that it was a written collection, not oral, that was begun in the early period of Israel’s history. As time went on it was expanded, and at the time of the institution of the monarchy it prob. became a part, and perhaps was the beginning, of the literary archives that formed the official records of the period of the monarchy.

The uncertain and mysterious character of the missing Book of Jashar has led to attempts to reproduce, imitate, or falsify it. One of the last compositions of the haggadic lit. of Judaism, called the “Book of Jashar,” is a falsification of the missing book in an attempt to reproduce it. It is written in good Heb. and has to do with the era from Adam to Judges. The greater part of this work is concerned with pre-Mosaic material. Much of the material is invention, interpolated between Biblical texts, in the author’s desire to reconstruct the original book of Jashar. Many legends are added to the Biblical narrative. The account of Abraham is given in elaborate detail, including stories of his two journeys to see his son Ishmael, and of an apparition of a star. It contains a detailed explanation of the murder of Abel by Cain.

It is believed by some scholars that this attempt to reconstruct the OT Book of Jashar originated in southern Italy. The author was familiar with Italian place names. The Arab. names in the book are due to the strong influence of Arab. culture on southern Italy.


L. Goldschmidt, The Book of Jashar (1923); E. Nielson, Oral Tradition (1954).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ja’-shar, jash’-ar (cepher ha-yashar; the King James Version Book of Jasher, margin "the book of the upright"): The title of an ancient Hebrew national song-book (literally, "book of the righteous one") from which two quotations are made in the Old Testament:

(1) Jos 10:12-14, the command of Joshua to the sun and moon, "Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon. .... Is not this written in the book of Jashar?" (see Beth-horon; Septuagint in this place omits the reference to Jashar); and

(2) 2Sa 1:8 ff, "the song of the bow," or lament of David over Saul and Jonathan.

(3) Some conjecture a third extract in 1Ki 8:12, "Then spake Solomon, Yahweh hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness." The words of Yahweh are quoted by Septuagint in 8:53 as "written in the book of the song" (en biblio tes odes), and it is pointed out that the words "the song" (in Hebrew ha-shir) might easily be a corruption of ha-yashar. A similar confusion ("song" for "righteous") may explain the fact that the Peshitta Syriac of Joshua has for a title "the book of praises or hymns." The book evidently was a well-known one, and may have been a gradual collection of religious and national songs. It is conjectured that it may have included the So of Deborah (Jud 5), and older pieces now found in the Pentateuch (e.g. Ge 4:23,14; 9:25-27; 27:27-29); this, however, is uncertain. On the curious theories and speculations of the rabbis and others about the book (that it was the Book of the Law, of Genesis, etc.), with the fantastic reconstructive theory of Dr. Donaldson in his Jasbar, see the full article in HDB.