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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 Naphtali, about Natural Goodness

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Text Commentary

I.

1A copy of the Testament of Naphtali, which he left as a testament at the time of his death, in the hundred and thirty-second year of his life.

2When his sons were met together in the seventh month, on the fourth 1 So b: II ‘first’. day of the month, while he was still in good health, he made a feast for them 2 So II: b ‘he made a supper himself’. – in fact, a banquet. 3And after he had woken up next morning he said to them, I am going to die. And they did not believe him. 4And he blessed the Lord and insisted that after the feast of the day before he would die. 5So he began to say to his sons, 3 So b: II om. ‘to his sons’. Listen, my children, you sons of Naphtali, listen to what your father is saying. 6I was Bilhah's child; and because Rachel craftily gave Bilhah to Jacob instead of herself and she bore me on Rachel's thighs, I was consequently called Naphtali. 7And Rachel loved me because I was born on her thighs; and as I was an attractive child, 4 So b (lit. ‘being delicate in form’): II ‘when I was still young’ (lit. ‘being still delicate’). she would kiss me and say, May I live to see a brother of yours, from my own womb, just like you. 8So it came about that Joseph was like me in everything, in answer to Rachel's prayers. 9And my mother was 5 Lit. ‘is’. Bilhah, the daughter of Rotheus, the brother of Deborah, Rebecca's nurse, and she was born on the very same day as Rachel. 10And Rotheus was of Abraham's stock, a Chaldaean, devout, free-born, and well-bred. 11And he was taken as a prisoner and bought by Laban, and he gave him Aina, his slave-girl, as his wife; and she bore a daughter, and he called her Zilpah after the village where he had been taken prisoner. 12And again 6 Lit. ‘next’. she bore a daughter and he called her Bilhah, 7 The text in all the MSS is difficult here. Either we must assume that some words have fallen out (hence our translation, which follows a reconstruction based on the analogy of the previous verse), or we must emend the masculine participle ‘saying’ to the feminine in order to make Aina, and not Rotheus, the speaker (and so the parent responsible for giving Bilhah her name). saying, My daughter is one of those who are always in a hurry to run after anything new; 8 Lit. ‘My daughter is a hurrier-after-novelty’. for as soon as she was born she was in a hurry to be suckled.

II.

1And since I was as light-footed as a deer, my father Jacob chose me for all missions and messages; and as if I were a deer he gave me his blessing. 2For just as the potter knows how much the vessel he is making is to contain, and takes the right amount of clay for it, so too the Lord makes the body with a view to the spirit it is to contain, 1 Lit. ‘with a view to the likeness of the spirit’. and he puts the spirit into it according to the body's capacity. 3And the proportions of the two correspond perfectly, 2 Lit. ‘And there is no remainder, one out of the one, a third of a hair’. for the whole 4creation 3 Or ‘for every creature’. of the Most High has been fashioned by weight and measure and rule. And just as the potter knows what the use of each vessel is, and what it is fit for, so also the Lord knows for how long the body will persist in goodness and when it will turn to evil. 4 Lit. ‘when it begins in evil’. 5For there is nothing that is made and no thought which the Lord does not know, for he created every man in his own image. 6As is a man's strength, so also is his work; and as his mind, so also his skill; 5 So II: b wrongly repeats ‘his work’. and as his purpose, so also his achievement; and as his heart, so also his mouth; and as his eye, so also his sleep; and as his soul, so also his word, either in the law of the Lord or the law of Beliar. 7And as there is a distinction between light and darkness, and between seeing and hearing, so also there is a distinction between one man and another, and between one woman and another; and it cannot be said that one is like another either in face or in mind. 6 All the Gk. MSS are more or less corrupt: the translation is based on a reconstruction made with the help of Arm. 8For God made all things good in their order: first the five senses in the head (and he joined 7 So b: II ‘and joining’. the neck to the head and the hair to give it glory 8 So bl: II-l ‘… to the head, adding also to it the hair to give it dignity and glory’. ), then the heart for understanding, the belly †for secretion of the stomach†, the windpipe for health, the liver for anger, the gall for bitterness, the spleen for laughter, and kidneys for shrewdness, the muscles of the loins for power, the ribs to form a chest, 9 Or ‘the sides for sleeping on’. Both text and translation are uncertain. the loins for strength, and so on. 9So then, my children, order your lives to do what is right 10 b ‘be in order to good things’: II ‘let all your works be in order to good things’. in the fear of God, and do nothing that is not in order, out of context, or not in season. 10For if you tell the eye to hear, it cannot: so neither, if your are in darkness, will you be able to do the deeds of light.

III.

1Do not, then, be goaded into wrong-doing by covetousness, 1 Lit. ‘Be not eager, therefore, to corrupt your deeds through covetousness’. neither deceive yourselves with empty words, because if you keep silent in purity of heart you will understand how 2 So II: b ‘you will be able’. to hold fast God's will and reject the devil's. 2Sun moon and stars do not change their order: so too you must not change the law of God by the disorderliness of what you do. 3The Gentiles went astray and forsook the Lord and changed their order, and they went after stones and stocks, led away by spirits of error. 4But you will not be so, my children: you have recognized in the vault of heaven, in the earth, and in the sea, and in all created things, the Lord who made them all, so that you should not become like Sodom which changed the order of its nature. 5Similarly, the Watchers also changed the order of their nature, and the Lord cursed them also at the flood, and it was because of them that he made the earth a waste, without inhabitants or fruits.

IV.

1I am telling you this, my children, because I have read in the holy writing of Enoch that you yourselves also will forsake the Lord and do the same wicked things that the Gentiles do and behave like the lawless men of Sodom. 1 Lit. ‘… the Lord, walking according to all the wickedness of the Gentiles, and you will do according to all the lawlessness of Sodom’. 2And the Lord will bring captivity upon you, and you will be slaves there to your enemies and subjected to every kind of hardship and ill-treatment until the Lord has made an end of you altogether. 3And after your numbers have diminished and your strength is exhausted, you will return and acknowledge the Lord your God; and in his great mercy he will bring you back into your own land. 4And it shall be, when they have come into the land of their fathers, they will again forget the Lord and act impiously. 5And the Lord will scatter them over the whole surface of the earth, until the Lord's compassion comes – a man that does righteousness and deals mercifully with all those who are far off and those who are near by.

V.

1In the fortieth year of my life I had a vision 1 Lit. ‘I saw’. on the Mount of Olives 2 Lit. ‘on the mountains of olive(s)’. (on the east of Jerusalem), that the sun and the moon were standing still. 2And behold, Isaac, my father's father, said to us, Run and take hold of them, each one of you as best he can, and whoever lays hands on them, to him will the sun and the moon belong. 3And we ran, all of us together; and Levi took hold of the sun, and Judah was the first to lay hands on the moon, and both of them were lifted up with them. 4And when Levi was as the sun, a young man gave him twelve palm branches; and Judah was radiant like the moon, and under his feet were twelve rays. 5And Levi and Judah ran towards each other and took hold of one another. 6And behold, a bull appeared upon the earth, having two great horns, and there were eagle's wings on its back; and we wanted to lay hands on it, but we could not. 7For Joseph got hold of it first and ascended up on high with it. 8And I looked 1 Lit. ‘I saw’. (for I was in the gardens 3 So gdlm Arm.: others corrupt. ), and behold, a holy writing appeared to us, saying, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Elamites, Galachians, Chaldaeans, Syrians, shall in turn take captive 4 Lit. ‘shall inherit in captivity’. the twelve tribes of Israel.

VI.

1And again, seven months afterwards, I had a vision of 1 Lit. ‘I saw’. our father Jacob standing by the sea of Jamnia, and we, his sons, were with him. 2And behold, a ship came sailing by, full of salt fish, 2 In all probability ‘full of salt fish’ is a corrupt dittography of the following ‘without sailors’. but without sailors or steersman; and the ship was inscribed, The Ship 3 So II-l: bl om. ‘The Ship’. of Jacob. 3And our father said to us, Let us get into our ship. 4And when we had gone on board, a violent storm got up, and there was a great gust of wind, and our father, who was at the helm, was blown away from us. 5And we drifted 4 Lit. ‘we were carried over the sea’. storm-tossed; and the ship filled with water, and it was pounded by massive waves so that it was broken up. 6And Joseph made his escape in a dinghy; and we got away on ten planks (Levi and Judah were on one plank together). 7,8And we were all scattered to the ends of the earth. But Levi, in sackcloth prayed for us all to the Lord. 9And when the storm ceased, the ship reached the land, just as if nothing unusual had happened. 5 Lit. ‘as it were in peace’. 10And behold, our father Jacob came, and we all rejoiced together.

VII.

1I told the two dreams to my father, and he said to me, These things must be fulfilled at their proper time, after Israel has suffered much. 2Then my father said to me, I believe that Joseph is alive, for I see that the Lord always includes him along with you. 3And he said in tears, You are alive, Joseph, my child, though I am unable to look on you, and you cannot see Jacob who begot you. 4And he reduced us to tears as well by what he said; and I longed 1 Lit. ‘I burned in my bowels’. to tell him that Joseph had been sold, but I was afraid of my brothers.

VIII.

1And behold, my children, I have shown you what shall be in the last times, for all these things shall happen in Israel. 2Instruct your children, therefore, that they keep united with Levi and Judah; for through Judah will salvation come to Israel, 1 Lit. ‘will salvation sprout up for Israel’. and in him will Jacob be blessed. 3For through his tribe God will appear, dwelling among men on the earth, to save the race of Israel; and he will gather together the righteous of the Gentiles. 4If you do what is good, my children, both men and angels will bless you; and God will be glorified through you among the Gentiles, and the devil will flee from you, and the wild animals will be afraid of you, and the Lord will love you, 2 So gle: all others om. ‘and the Lord will love you’ through homoioteleuton. and the angels will keep close to you. 5For just as a man who has brought up a child well is remembered as a benefactor, so also a good work is a sure memorial before God. 3 Lit. ‘For as when anyone has brought up a child well, he has a happy remembrance, so also for a good work there is a happy remembrance before God’. 6But who does not do what is good – men and angels will curse him; and God will be dishonoured among the Gentiles through him, and the devil will use him as his own peculiar instrument, and every wild animal will gain the mastery over him, and the Lord will hate him. 7For the commandments of the law are far from simple, and the keeping of them requires some skill. 4 Lit. ‘…are double, and through skill must they be fulfilled’. 8For there is a time to embrace one's wife, and there is a time to abstain, so that one can give oneself to prayer. 9There are, then, two commandments; and, unless their proper order is maintained, the result is sin. And so too it is with the other commandments. 10So be wise in God, and prudent; and understand the order of his commandments and the laws of every action, so that the Lord may love you.

IX.

1And when he had charged them with many such words, he asked them to take his bones to Hebron and bury them with his fathers. 2And when he had eaten and drunk and made merry, he hid 1 Lit. ‘covered’. his face and died. 3And his sons did everything their father Naphtali had instructed them.

Notes:

1 So b: II ‘first’.

2 So II: b ‘he made a supper himself’.

3 So b: II om. ‘to his sons’.

4 So b (lit. ‘being delicate in form’): II ‘when I was still young’ (lit. ‘being still delicate’).

5 Lit. ‘is’.

6 Lit. ‘next’.

7 The text in all the MSS is difficult here. Either we must assume that some words have fallen out (hence our translation, which follows a reconstruction based on the analogy of the previous verse), or we must emend the masculine participle ‘saying’ to the feminine in order to make Aina, and not Rotheus, the speaker (and so the parent responsible for giving Bilhah her name).

8 Lit. ‘My daughter is a hurrier-after-novelty’.

1 Lit. ‘with a view to the likeness of the spirit’.

2 Lit. ‘And there is no remainder, one out of the one, a third of a hair’.

3 Or ‘for every creature’.

4 Lit. ‘when it begins in evil’.

5 So II: b wrongly repeats ‘his work’.

6 All the Gk. MSS are more or less corrupt: the translation is based on a reconstruction made with the help of Arm.

7 So b: II ‘and joining’.

8 So bl: II-l ‘… to the head, adding also to it the hair to give it dignity and glory’.

9 Or ‘the sides for sleeping on’. Both text and translation are uncertain.

10 b ‘be in order to good things’: II ‘let all your works be in order to good things’.

1 Lit. ‘Be not eager, therefore, to corrupt your deeds through covetousness’.

2 So II: b ‘you will be able’.

1 Lit. ‘… the Lord, walking according to all the wickedness of the Gentiles, and you will do according to all the lawlessness of Sodom’.

1 Lit. ‘I saw’.

2 Lit. ‘on the mountains of olive(s)’.

3 So gdlm Arm.: others corrupt.

4 Lit. ‘shall inherit in captivity’.

1 Lit. ‘I saw’.

2 In all probability ‘full of salt fish’ is a corrupt dittography of the following ‘without sailors’.

3 So II-l: bl om. ‘The Ship’.

4 Lit. ‘we were carried over the sea’.

5 Lit. ‘as it were in peace’.

1 Lit. ‘I burned in my bowels’.

1 Lit. ‘will salvation sprout up for Israel’.

2 So gle: all others om. ‘and the Lord will love you’ through homoioteleuton.

3 Lit. ‘For as when anyone has brought up a child well, he has a happy remembrance, so also for a good work there is a happy remembrance before God’.

4 Lit. ‘…are double, and through skill must they be fulfilled’.

1 Lit. ‘covered’.

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