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The Apocryphal Old Testament Collection of the most important non-canonical Old Testament books designed for general use.

Chapter XXXIII

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Text Commentary

1And Jacob moved and settled to the south of Migdal-Eder-Ephrata. And he went to visit his father Isaac, he and his wife Leah, on the new moon of the tenth month. 2And Reuben saw Bilhah, Rachel's maid, his father's concubine, bathing in water in a secluded place, and he became enamoured of her. 3And he hid himself and went into Bilhah's house at night and found her asleep alone on her bed in her house; and he lay with her. 4And she woke up and looked round, and behold Reuben was lying with her on the bed; and she lifted the edge of her coverlet and took hold of him, and when she realized it was Reuben she cried out aloud. 5And she was ashamed because of him, 1 So Eth.: Lat. ‘he was ashamed because of her’. As the texts of this passage now stand, this is the only clear case of confusion about who was doing what. It is probable, however, that at earlier stages in the tradition there were more; and in the original it may well have been Reuben who lifted the edge of the coverlet and took hold of Bilhah, and then, when she cried out, let go of her, rather than vice versa. and she let go of him, and he fled. 6And she was much upset by what had happened and said nothing to any one about it. 7And when Jacob returned and asked for 2 Lit. ‘sought’. her, she said to him, I am not clean for you, for I have been defiled: 3 Lit. ‘defiled as regards you’. Reuben defiled me and lay with me in the night, when I was asleep, and I did not realize who it was until he had uncovered my shame 4 Lit. ‘skirt’ and so also in verses 8, 9, 10 and 12. and had intercourse with me. 8And Jacob was very angry with Reuben because he had lain with Bilhah – because he had uncovered his father's shame. And Jacob did not approach her again because Reuben had defiled her.

9And any man who uncovers his father's shame – what he does is wicked beyond measure, for he is abominable in the Lord's sight. 10That is why it is written and decreed on the heavenly tablets that a man should not lie with his father's wife and should not uncover his father's shame, for to do this is unclean: they shall be put to death together, the man who lies with his father's wife and the woman also, for they are guilty of uncleanness on the earth. 11And there shall be nothing unclean before our God in the nation that he has chosen for himself as a possession. 12And again, it is written a second time, Cursed be the man who lies with his father's wife, for he has uncovered his father's shame; and all the Lord's holy ones said, Amen, Amen.

13And do you, Moses, command the sons of Israel to observe this injunction, 5 Lit. ‘this word’. for transgression of it entails the punishment of death, and it concerns what is unclean; and there is no atonement that can ever atone for the man who has committed this sin, but he must be killed and put to death by stoning and uprooted from among the people of our God. 14For no man who does this in Israel should be allowed to remain alive a single day on the earth, for he is abominable and unclean. 15And let no one say, Reuben was granted life and forgiveness after he had lain with his father's concubine, and so also was Bilhah, 6 Lit. ‘To Reuben was granted…and to her also’. although she had a husband, and her husband Jacob (Reuben's 7 Lit. ‘his’. father) was still alive. 16For at that time the ordinance and the decree and the law in its completeness, to cover every case, 8 Lit. ‘for all’. had not been revealed; but in your days it has been revealed as a law for all times and seasons, and as an everlasting law for all generations for ever. 17And for this law there is no time limit, neither can there be atonement for transgression of it, but both the man and the woman must be uprooted from the nation: on the day on which they committed the sin 9 Lit. ‘committed it’. they shall be put to death.

18And do you, Moses, write it down for Israel, that they may observe it, and not do such a thing, and not commit a mortal sin; for the Lord our God is a judge who neither respects persons nor accepts bribes. 19And tell them these words of the covenant, that they may hear them, and observe them, and be on their guard in relation to them, and take care not to be destroyed and uprooted from the land; for all on the earth who commit this sin 10 Lit. ‘commit it’. are an uncleanness and an abomination and a contamination and a pollution before our God. 20And there is no sin on earth they can commit greater than fornication, for Israel is a holy nation to the Lord its God, and a special nation of his own, and a priestly and royal nation for his possession; and no such uncleanness should be seen in a holy nation.

21And in the third year of this sixth week Jacob and all his sons went and lived in Abraham's house near his father Isaac and his mother Rebecca. 22And these were the names of Jacob's sons: Reuben (the eldest), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulon – all sons of Leah; and the sons of Rachel – Joseph and Benjamin; and the sons of Bilhah – Dan and Naphtali; and the sons of Zilpah – Gad and Asher; and Dinah, the daughter of Leah (Jacob's only daughter). 23And they came and bowed themselves before Isaac and Rebecca; and when they saw them they blessed Jacob and all his sons. And Isaac rejoiced greatly when he saw his younger son Jacob's sons; and he blessed them.

Notes:

1 So Eth.: Lat. ‘he was ashamed because of her’. As the texts of this passage now stand, this is the only clear case of confusion about who was doing what. It is probable, however, that at earlier stages in the tradition there were more; and in the original it may well have been Reuben who lifted the edge of the coverlet and took hold of Bilhah, and then, when she cried out, let go of her, rather than vice versa.

2 Lit. ‘sought’.

3 Lit. ‘defiled as regards you’.

4 Lit. ‘skirt’ and so also in verses 8, 9, 10 and 12.

5 Lit. ‘this word’.

6 Lit. ‘To Reuben was granted…and to her also’.

7 Lit. ‘his’.

8 Lit. ‘for all’.

9 Lit. ‘committed it’.

10 Lit. ‘commit it’.

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