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

The Testament of Reuben, about Ideas

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Text Commentary

I.

1A copy of the Testament of Reuben, which he gave as a command to his sons before he died, in the hundred and twenty-fifth year of his life.

2When he was ill, two years after the death of Joseph, his sons and grandsons met together to visit him. 3And he said to them, My children, I am dying and going the way of my fathers. 4And seeing there Judah and Gad and Asher, his brothers, he said to them, Raise me up, my brothers, so that I can tell my brothers and my children what lies hidden in my heart; for I am about to die. 5And he got up and kissed them and said, weeping, Listen, my brothers, pay attention 〈my sons〉, 1 The restoration seems called for by Reuben's description of himself as ‘your father’ lm add ‘and my children’ and chn add ‘and my sons’ after ‘my brothers’, and d reads ‘children’ instead of ‘my brothers’. Cp. T. Jos. i. 2. to Reuben your father, and to the commands I give you. 6And behold, I call the God of heaven to witness against you to-day, so that you do not live your lives in the ignorance of youth and give yourselves up to fornication, as I did, and defiled my father Jacob's bed. 7For I tell you, he struck me with a foul disease in my loins for seven months; and had not my father Jacob prayed for me to the Lord, 〈I would have died〉, 2 Cp. T. Jud. xix. 2; T. Gad v. 9. for 3 So b ef: gldm a chi om. the Lord was minded to destroy me. 8For I was thirty years old when I did this evil before the Lord; and for seven months I was dangerously ill. 9And with determination I set myself for seven years to repent before the Lord. 10I drank no wine nor strong drink, no meat entered my mouth, and I tasted no pleasant food at all, as I mourned over my sin (for it was great). May no such thing ever again happen in Israel!

II.

1And now listen to me, children, and I will tell you what I saw concerning the seven spirits of error when I repented. 2Seven spirits were appointed 1 Lit. ‘given’. by Beliar against man, and they are responsible for what he does when young. 2 Lit. ‘and they are the origin of the works of youth’. 3[ 3 We follow Charles in bracketing ii. 3–iii. 2 as an interpolation: iii. 3 follows naturally on ii. 2. Also seven spirits were given him at the creation to be the means of his doing everything. 4 Lit. ‘so that by them should be done every work of man’. 4 The first is the spirit of life, with which man's substance is created. The second is the spirit of sight, with which comes desire. 5 The third is the spirit of hearing, with which is given 5 So ldm ef: bka chi ‘with which comes’. teaching. The fourth is the spirit of smell, with which taste is given to draw in air and breath. 6 The fifth is the spirit of speech, with which comes knowledge. 7 The sixth is the spirit of taste, with which comes eating and drinking; 6 Lit. ‘with which comes the eating of foods and drinks’. and by them 7 So bl: II-l (d) ‘by it’ (i.e. by the spirit of taste). man's strength is built up (for food is the foundation of strength). 8 The seventh is the spirit of procreation and sexual intercourse, with which sin enters through love of pleasure. 9For this reason it is last in the order of creation and first among the desires of youth, because the truth about it goes unrecognized, 8 Lit. ‘because it has been filled with ignorance’. and it leads the young man like a blind man to a pit, and like a beast over a precipice.

III.

1Besides all these there is an eighth spirit of sleep, with which were brought into being the deep sleep 1 Or ‘trance’ or ‘fear’ (Gk. ἔκστασις: cp. Gen. ii. 21, xv. 12; 1 Sam xi. 7; etc.). of nature and the image of death. 2,3With these spirits is mingled the spirit 2 So bdm: II-dm ‘are mingled the spirits’. of error.] The first, the spirit of fornication, is seated in the nature and the senses: the second, the spirit of insatiate desire, in the stomach: the third, the spirit of fighting, in the liver and the gall. 4 The fourth is the spirit of obsequiousness and chicanery, so that by studied effort a man can make a good impression. 5The fifth is the spirit of arrogance, so that he can boast 3 So II: bk ‘so that he can be excited’. and have a good opinion of himself. The sixth is the spirit of lying, which leads a man to invent things in depravity and envy, and to conceal things 4 b c om. ‘and to conceal things’. from his family and the members of his household. 6 The seventh is the spirit of unrighteousness, with which come theft and acts of rapacity, so that a man can satisfy his own natural love of pleasure; 5 Lit. ‘so that he can do the love of pleasure of his heart’. for unrighteousness works together with the other spirits by a mutual give-and-take. 6 There are several different readings here, none of which is entirely satisfactory. Charles preferred ‘by the taking of gifts’. 7[And besides all these the spirit of sleep, the eighth spirit, is combined with error and phantasy.] 7 Cp. verse 1. 8And so every young man perishes and plunges his mind into darkness away from the truth, inasmuch as he neither understands the law of God nor takes note of his fathers' warnings (as, indeed, happened to me in my youth). 9And now, children, love the truth and it will keep you safe. This is my advice to you. 8 Lit. ‘I am teaching you’. Listen to your father Reuben.

10Pay no attention to a woman's face, and never be alone with another man's wife, nor be too inquisitive about women's affairs. 11For had I not seen Bilhah bathing in a secluded place I would not have fallen into so great a sin. 9 Lit. ‘into the great sin’. 12For my mind was obsessed by the thought of her woman's nakedness and would not let me sleep until I had done the abominable thing. 13For while our father Jacob was away on a visit to his father Isaac, when we were in Eder, near the house of Ephrath (that is Bethlehem), 10 So b: ldme ‘near Ephrath and Bethlehem’; af nchi ‘near Ephrath in Bethlehem’. Bilhah had been drinking; and she was lying asleep in her bedroom with nothing over her. 14And I went in and saw her nakedness and did the wicked deed; and I left her still asleep and went away. 15And immediately an angel of God told my father Jacob about my wickedness; and he came and mourned over me. And as for Bilhah, he had no further relations with her.

IV.

1Pay no attention, therefore, to women's beauty, neither bother your minds about their affairs; but live in simplicity of heart and in the fear of the Lord, persevering in your labours and devoting yourselves to learning and the tending of your flocks, 1 and devoting … flocks: lit. ‘and wandering in letters and your flocks’. until the Lord gives you the wife he has chosen for you, 2 Lit. ‘a wife whom he wills’. so that you do not suffer as I did. 2Until 3 So b: II ‘for until’. my father's death I had not the courage to look Jacob in the face, nor to speak to any of my brothers because of their reproaches. 3And even now my conscience smites me because of my sin. 4However, my father encouraged me, for he prayed to the Lord for me, that the Lord's anger might pass me by, even as the Lord showed me. And from then on I repented and 4 So gld Arm.: b ‘from then on therefore’; eaf ‘from then on even in my thoughts’; chi ‘from then on until now’. I have been very careful and have not sinned. 5So, my children, observe all the commands I give you and you will not sin. 6For fornication is destruction to the soul: it separates from God and drives those who indulge in it to idols, inasmuch as it clouds the mind and understanding; and it leads young men down to Hades before their time. 5 Lit. ‘not in their time’. 7For fornication has ruined many; because, even though a man be old or of noble birth, it makes him an object of reproach and a laughing-stock with both Beliar and his fellow men. 6 Lit. ‘and the sons of men’. 8For it was because Joseph avoided women and kept his mind pure from all thoughts of fornication that he found favour with the Lord and men. 9For the Egyptian woman did many things to him, and sent for magicians, and brought him love-potions; but he stood firm against temptation. 7 Lit. ‘the inclination of his soul admitted no evil desire’. 10And so the God of my fathers rescued him from every visible and hidden death. 11For if fornication has not gained the mastery over the mind, 8 So b a: II-a ‘your mind’. neither will Beliar gain the mastery over you.

V.

1Women are evil, my children: because they have no power or strength to stand up against man, they use wiles and try to ensnare 2him by their charms; 1 Lit. ‘forms’. and man, whom woman cannot subdue by strength, she subdues by guile. 3For, indeed, the angel of God told me about them and taught me that women yield to the spirit of fornication more easily than a man does, and they lay plots in their hearts against men: by the way they adorn themselves they first lead their minds astray, and by a look they instil the poison, and 4then in the act itself they take them captive – for a woman cannot overcome a man by force. 5So shun fornication, my children, and command your wives and daughters not to adorn their heads and faces, 2 So bk: II adds ‘to deceive the mind’. for every woman that uses wiles of this kind has been reserved for eternal punishment. 6It was thus that they allured the Watchers before the flood; for, as a result of seeing them continually, the Watchers 3 Lit. ‘these’. lusted after one another, and they conceived the act in their minds and changed themselves into the shape of men and appeared to the women 4 Lit. ‘them’. when they were having intercourse with their husbands. 7And the women, 3 Lit. ‘these’. lusting in their minds after their phantom forms, gave birth to giants (for the Watchers seemed to them tall enough to touch the sky).

VI.

1Beware, then, of fornication; and if you would be pure in mind, guard your senses against every woman. 1 Lit. ‘female’. 2And command the women, 2 Lit. ‘them’. too, not to make close friends of men, 3 Lit. ‘not to associate with men as couples’. so that they also may be pure in mind. 3For constant meetings, even though no sinful acts may be involved, are for women 2 Lit. ‘not to associate with men as couples’. a disease for which there is no cure, and for us an eternal reproach of Beliar. 4For indulgence in fornication allows no scope for either understanding or godliness, and the lust that inspires it provides a home for every kind of jealousy. 4 Lit. ‘For fornication has neither understanding nor godliness in itself, and all jealousy dwells in its lust’. 5And so you will be jealous 5 The tenses vary in the MSS: the future seems preferable in both places. of the sons of Levi and seek 5 The tenses vary in the MSS: the future seems preferable in both places. to be raised above them; but you will not succeed. 6For God will avenge them, and you will die a cruel death. 7For to Levi the Lord gave the sovereignty – and to Judah (and with them also to me and Dan and Joseph, that we should be rulers too). 8For this reason I command you to listen to Levi, for he will know the law of the Lord and interpret his precepts and offer sacrifice for all Israel until the coming 6 Lit. ‘until the consummation of the times’. of the anointed high priest, 7 Or ‘of Christ, the high priest’. of whom the Lord spoke. 9I charge you by the God of heaven to deal honestly, each one with his neighbour, and to have love, each one for his brother. 8 So II: b om ‘and to have … brother’. 10And approach Levi with humility, so that you may receive a blessing from his mouth. 11For he shall bless Israel and Judah, because the Lord has chosen him to rule as king over all the peoples. 12And accord his sons their proper reverence 9 Lit. ‘And bow down before his seed’. for they 10 Lit. ‘it’ (i.e. his seed). will die in wars on our behalf (in wars seen and unseen), and he 10 Lit. ‘it’ (i.e. his seed). will be among you an eternal king.

VIII.

1And when he had given his sons these commands, Reuben died. 2And they put him in a coffin until they carried him up from Egypt and buried him in Hebron in the double cave where his fathers were.

Notes:

1 The restoration seems called for by Reuben's description of himself as ‘your father’ lm add ‘and my children’ and chn add ‘and my sons’ after ‘my brothers’, and d reads ‘children’ instead of ‘my brothers’. Cp. T. Jos. i. 2.

2 Cp. T. Jud. xix. 2; T. Gad v. 9.

3 So b ef: gldm a chi om.

1 Lit. ‘given’.

2 Lit. ‘and they are the origin of the works of youth’.

3 We follow Charles in bracketing ii. 3–iii. 2 as an interpolation: iii. 3 follows naturally on ii. 2.

4 Lit. ‘so that by them should be done every work of man’.

5 So ldm ef: bka chi ‘with which comes’.

6 Lit. ‘with which comes the eating of foods and drinks’.

7 So bl: II-l (d) ‘by it’ (i.e. by the spirit of taste).

8 Lit. ‘because it has been filled with ignorance’.

1 Or ‘trance’ or ‘fear’ (Gk. ἔκστασις: cp. Gen. ii. 21, xv. 12; 1 Sam xi. 7; etc.).

2 So bdm: II-dm ‘are mingled the spirits’.

3 So II: bk ‘so that he can be excited’.

4 b c om. ‘and to conceal things’.

5 Lit. ‘so that he can do the love of pleasure of his heart’.

6 There are several different readings here, none of which is entirely satisfactory. Charles preferred ‘by the taking of gifts’.

7 Cp. verse 1.

8 Lit. ‘I am teaching you’.

9 Lit. ‘into the great sin’.

10 So b: ldme ‘near Ephrath and Bethlehem’; af nchi ‘near Ephrath in Bethlehem’.

1 and devoting … flocks: lit. ‘and wandering in letters and your flocks’.

2 Lit. ‘a wife whom he wills’.

3 So b: II ‘for until’.

4 So gld Arm.: b ‘from then on therefore’; eaf ‘from then on even in my thoughts’; chi ‘from then on until now’.

5 Lit. ‘not in their time’.

6 Lit. ‘and the sons of men’.

7 Lit. ‘the inclination of his soul admitted no evil desire’.

8 So b a: II-a ‘your mind’.

1 Lit. ‘forms’.

2 So bk: II adds ‘to deceive the mind’.

3 Lit. ‘these’.

4 Lit. ‘them’.

1 Lit. ‘female’.

2 Lit. ‘them’.

3 Lit. ‘not to associate with men as couples’.

4 Lit. ‘For fornication has neither understanding nor godliness in itself, and all jealousy dwells in its lust’.

5 The tenses vary in the MSS: the future seems preferable in both places.

6 Lit. ‘until the consummation of the times’.

7 Or ‘of Christ, the high priest’.

8 So II: b om ‘and to have … brother’.

9 Lit. ‘And bow down before his seed’.

10 Lit. ‘it’ (i.e. his seed).

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