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IV. The Original Forefathers and Jacob's Twelve Sons

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The Testaments of the twelve Patriarchs
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1 I. Introduction
2 II. Opinions about the Testaments
3 III. Critical Observations on the Nature and Discovery of the Testaments
4 IV. The Original Forefathers and Jacob's Twelve Sons
5 V. Prophecy in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
6 Notes and References


IV. The Original Forefathers and Jacob's Twelve Sons

A. The Original Forefathers of Israel

The writing of the testaments appear to go back much further than those of the twelve sons of Jacob. Testaments supposedly written by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have been discovered and translated. [1]

These Testaments, however, are generally viewed by many scholars as spurious writings, with the exception of the Testament of the patriarch Jacob, which we find at least partially recorded in the Bible book of Genesis, as well as in scholarly manuscripts [See The Lost Books of the Bible and The Forgotten Books of Eden, by Rutherford Hayes Platt, 1998] and Michael Stone [See reference below.] The testaments, on the whole, became the subject of analysis and debate following their discovery amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls, but what is very intriguing is the fact that much of the biographical information about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jacob's twelve sons that we find in the Testaments, also appears in Old Testament. Acknowledgement seems due to the founding forefathers of the Israelites, without whose wisdom, I believe, these subsequent texts [Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs] might not have been written. [2]

1. Abraham was the progenitor of the Israelites [as well as the Ishmaelites and Edomites].He was monotheistic. Abraham was called by God from his birth city of Ur [Mesopotamia] to travel to the land of Canaan. Here, Abraham entered into a covenant with God in for recognizing Him as the soles supreme universal deity and authority. God promised Abraham that he would be blessed with an innumerable progeny. According to Jewish tradition (based on the Anno Mundi era), Abraham lived AM 1948–2123 (1812 BCE to 1637 BCE). Christian traditional dates are about 2000 BCE to 1825 BCE. [3] Abram was 100 and Sarai 90 when God promised them a son. At this time, God also changed Abram's name to Abraham (father of many nations), and Sarai's to Sarah (from "my princess" to "princess"). As promised by God, Sarah bore Abraham a son whose name was Isaac (in Hebrew, Yitzchak). This name comes from the word "laughter," expressing Abraham's joy at having a son in his old age. (Gen 17-18). [Note also that Ishmael, the son of Abraham and his concubine Hagar was the forefather of the Arabic nations.] [4] Also see [1]

2.Isaac, as mentioned earlier, was born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. Isaac became the subject of the most difficult test of Abraham's faith when God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. (Gen 22). In regards to the Testament of Isaac, James Charlesworth (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, pp. 123-124)writes: "While this writing is extant in Ethiopic and Arabic (see M. R. James, The Testament of Abraham [T&S 2] Cambridge: CUP, 1892; pp. 6f., 157), the major version is the Coptic, extant in Bohairic and Sahidic." [5]


3. Jacob [Israel], the second son of Isaac and brother of Esau, received the first-son birthright after Esau sold it to him in exchange for a bowl of lentil stew. Jacob was also the recipient of a blessing intended for Esau. Because of this "stolen" blessing, Esau vowed to take revenge on Jacob causing him to flee and live with his unclein Haran. Here he met and fell in love with his his uncle's younger daughter, Rachel and wanted to marry her. However, his uncle had Jacob to first marry Rachel's older sister, Leah, and later permitted him to marry Rachel. In addition to these two marriages, Jacob married Rachel and Leah's maidservants, Bilhah and Zilphah. Between these four women, Jacob fathered 12 sons and one daughter. [The twelve sons of Jacob are as follows: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin.][See Jacob's blessings [Testament] at Genesis 49.1-33. terpretation+/+Old+Testament%22&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0 [ http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/testjacob.html] [6]

B. The Twelve Sons of Jacob

Below are short biographical accounts of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin, Jacob's twelve sons and ancestors of the tribes of Israel. Joseph is the father of two half tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. [Each of the eleven patriarchs plus the two sons of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), was an eponymous founder of the tribe that bore his name.]A Testament for each of the twelve sons of Jacob can be found at the sacret Text website [2].

1. Reuben

Ruben [Reuben] was Jacob's eldest son (Genesis 46:8; 49:3) by Lia Leah]. He was born in Mesopotamia, and called Ruben ("see ye, a son") as an allusion to Lia's distress because of Jacob's previous dislike of her: "[ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13214b.htm]. When all of the sons of Jacob, except the youngest, Benjamin, plotted to kill Joseph due to their jealousy and hatred of him, Reuben is the one who persuaded them not to, and attempted to rescue him instead. Classical rabbinical sources argue that Reuben was born on the 9th of Kislev, and died at the age of 125.[7]

2. Simeon

Simeon was the second son of Jacob by Lia [Leah]. His name, according to the writer of Gen., xxix, 33-35 is derived from the word, shama, meaning "to hear". The writer quotes Lia [Leah] as saying: "Because the Lord heard that I was despised, he hath given this also to me; and she called his name Simeon" (Genesis 29:33) [8]. According to biblical history, Simeon was one of the brothers who took revenge against the inhabitants of Schechem after their sister Dinah was raped [or seduced] by the Caanaanite Shechem. He and the others tricked them into circumcising themselves then killed them when they were weakened. In the account, Jacob heavily castigates Simeon for this, and, in his blessing [Testament] condemns his descendants to become divided and scattered. [9]

3. Levi

Levi was the third son born to Jacob by Lia [Leah], and full brother of Ruben, Simeon, and Juda [Judah]. Together with Simeon he avenged the humiliation of their sister Dina by the slaughter of Sichem and his people (Genesis 34), for which deed of violence the two brothers were reproved both in Genesis 34:30, and in the prophecy attributed to the patriarch in Genesis 49:5-7 [10]. Levi fathered three sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. A similar genealogy is given in the Book of Exodus, where it is added that among Kohath's sons was one - Amram - who married a woman named Jochebed, who was closely related to his father, and between them were the biological parents of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. In accordance with his role as founder of the Levites, Levi is occasionally referred to in the Bible as being particularly pious. In a Biblical narrative, Levi, along with Simeon destroyed the city of Shechem in revenge for the rape of Dinah, seizing the wealth of the city, and killing the men. [11]

4. Judah

The son of Jacob by Lia, whose exclamation on the occasion of his birth: "Now will I praise the Lord" is given as the etymological reason for the name "Juda", which is derived from the Hebrew verb "to praise" (Genesis 29:35). It was Juda who interceded with his brethren to save the life of Joseph, proposing that he be sold to the Ismaelites (Genesis 37:26, 27) [12] Judah/Yehuda was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah. Judah was born on the 15th of Sivan; classical sources differ on the date of death, some say 119, 18 years before Levi,[6] but the midrashic Book of Jasher advocating a death at the age of 129.[7] According to the Talmud, Judah's confession atoned for some of his prior faults, and itself resulted in him being divinely rewarded by a share in the future world.The Book of Chronicles mentions that ... a ruler came from Judah ...,[40] which classical rabbinical sources took to imply that Judah was the leader of his brothers, terming him the king.[41][42] .In the Torah's Joseph narrative, when his brothers contemplate murdering Joseph it is Judah who suggests that the brothers should sell him to a gropu of traveling Ishmaelites. [56] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judah_(Bible)

5. Issachar

Issachar/Yissachar was the fifth son of Jacob and the fifth son of Leah. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Issachar. In classical rabbinical literature, it is stated that Issachar was born on the fourth of Ab, and lived 122 years. The Torah states that Issachar had four sons, who were born in Canaan and migrated with him to Egypt, with their descendants remaining there until the Exodus [13].

6. Dan

Dan was the fifth son of Jacob, being the elder of the two sons born to him by Bala, the handmaid of Rachel. He was the eponymous ancestor of the tribe bearing the same name. Etymologically, the word is referred to the Hebrew root dyn signifying "to rule" or "judge;" and in the passage, Genesis 19:17, it is interpreted "judge", but in Genesis 30:6, the explanation of the name rests rather on the passive sense of the word&#mdash; the child Dan being represented as the result of God's judgment in favour of Rachel. [14]. In the apocryphal Testaments of the Patriarchs, Dan is portrayed as having hated Joseph, and having been the one that invented the idea of deceiving Jacob by the smearing of Joseph's coat with the blood of a kid [15].

7. Zebulun

Zebulun was the sixth son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Zebulun. The Torah states that Zebulun had three sons - Sered, Elon, and Jahleel Beyond this, there is little other reference to Zebulun. [16].

8. Naphtali

Naphtali was the sixth son of Jacob and Bala (Genesis 30:8). The name is explained by a paranomasia which causes no small perplexity to commentators. Modern interpreters, following Simonis and Gesenius, translate it "wrestlings of God have I wrestled [D. V., "God hath compared me"] with my sister, and I have prevailed." According to this rendering, Nephtalia would mean "my wrestling", or simply "wrestling". Pseudo-Jonathan, commenting on Gen., xlix, 21, tells us Nephtali was the first to announce to Jacob that Joseph was alive; in another passage of the same Targum, Nephtali is mentioned among the five whom Joseph presented to Pharaoh (Genesis 47:2). According to the apocryphal "Testament of the twelve Patriarchs", he died in his one hundred and thirty-second year and was buried in Egypt. These details, however, are unreliable; in point of fact, we know nothing with certainty beyond the fact that he had four sons: Jaziel, Guni, Jeser, and Sallem (Genesis 46:24; Numbers 26:48 sqq.; 1 Chronicles 7:13). [17]

9. Gad

Gad was the seventh son of Jacob, and the first by Zelpha, Lia's handmaid. He was born to Jacob in Mesopotamia of Syria (Aram), like his full brother, Aser (Genesis 35:26). On his birth, Lia exclaimed: Happily! ( ) and therefore called his name Gad (Genesis 30:11). The exclamation and the name given thereupon bespeak a real relation between the name of this son of Jacob, and that of the pagan deity which was also called "Gad"; although the exact nature of this relation is variously estimated at the present day. The patriarch Gad begot seven sons (Genesis 46:16). Nothing more is said in Holy Writ concerning him personally. [18]

10. Asher

Aser was the eighth son of Jacob, born to him in Paddan-Aram. He was the second son of Zelpha [Zilpah], the handmaid of Lia, Jacob's wife. His name is derived from the root Asher, to make or declare happy. His mother bestowed this name on him; for she declared that through her childbearing "women will call me blessed" (Genesis 30:13). In the Bible there are recorded of Aser four sons and one daughter called Sara (Genesis 46:17). The descendants of Aser are enumerated (1 Chronicles 7:30-40). http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01774d.htm]. Another unfortunate event in Asher's life occurred when he had informed his brothers about Reuben's incest with Bilhah, and as a result came to be on bad terms with his brothers. When Reuben confessed, the brothers realized they had been unjust towards Asher. [19]

11.Joseph

Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob, the firstborn of Rachel, and the immediate ancestor of the tribes of Manasses and Ephraim. His life is narrated in Gen., 30: 22-24; 37: 39:1 wherein contemporary scholars distinguish three chief documents (J, E, P). (See ABRAHAM) The date of his eventful career can be fixed only approximately at the present day, for the Biblical account of Joseph's life does not name the particular Pharaoh of his time, and the Egyptian customs and manners therein alluded to are not decisive as to any special period in Egyptian history. His term of office in Egypt falls probably under one of the later Hyksos kings (see EGYPT). His name, either contracted from Jehoseph (Psalm 81:6, in the Hebrew) or abbreviated from Joseph-El (cf. Karnak inscription of Thothmes III, no. 78), is distinctly connected in Gen., xxx, 23, 24, with the circumstances of his birth and is interpreted: "may God add". He was born in Haran, of Rachel, Jacob's beloved and long-barren wife, and became the favourite son of the aged patriarch. After Jacob's return to Chanaan, various circumstances made Joseph the object of the mortal hatred of his brothers. He had witnessed some very wicked deed of several among them, and they knew that it had been reported to their father. Moreover, in his partiality to Joseph, Jacob gave him an ample garment of many colours, and this manifest proof of the patriarch's greater love for him aroused the jealousy of Joseph's brothers to such an extent that "they could not speak peaceably to him". [20] Jacob is also mentioned favorably in the Quran. Joseph is one of the best-known figures in the Torah, famous for his coat of many colors (although this may be a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for "sleeves") and his God-given ability to interpret dreams. Due to jealousy, his brother Judah sold him into slavery for 20 pieces of silver. Eventually he worked under the Egyptian official Potiphar, but was freed and became the chief adviser (vizier) to the Egyptian Pharaoh, allegedly during either the Hyksos Era or, according to Kenneth Kitchen, during the time of the Middle Kingdom. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph [21].

12. Benjamin

Benjamin was the youngest [and last] son of Jacob born of Rachel. His original name was Ben-oni (Heb. "son of my sorrow"), given to him by his mother just before she died in childbirth, but was changed to Benjamin by Jacob (Gen. 35:18). The Samaritan reading, Benjamim, i.e. "son of days", would refer to the advanced age of Jacob at the time of Benjamin's birth. Upon the loss of Joseph, Benjamin's full-brother, Jacob's affections were bestowed upon Benjamin, and it was only with great reluctance that he permitted his beloved child to accompany his brethren to Egypt to purchase corn. (Gen. xlii, 36; xlii, 15). Joseph, too, showed a marked preference of Benjamin to his other brethren and puts the latter's mind concerning him to a rather severe test (Genesis 44-46). http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02480b.htm]. Jdgray 18:27, 6 September 2008 (UTC) Jdgray 11:29, 11 September 2008 (UTC)



  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testament_of_Abraham
  2. http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/fbe/index.htm Patriarchs of Isa

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