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Jubilees' Formulation of Gen 2:23: A Literary Motif viewed against the Legal Matrices of the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East

Pages 4 - 11


Beit Shemesh

Dr. David Rothstein, Hatzav 14a, Beit Shemesh, Israel (e-mail:

1 See J.C. VanderKam, Book of Jubilees, Scriptores Aethiopici 88, (Louvain: Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 1989), vol. 2, who notes that this reading appears in Eth Gen 2:23; see, also, the discussion below.

2 See B. Halpern-Amaru, The Empowerment of Women (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 10–11.

3 More specifically, L. Blau noted the relationship (Gen 2:24 and) Jubilees 3:3–7, on the one hand, and the traditions in Mark 10:11–12 and Luke 16:18, on the other, with regard to the indissoluble nature of the marriage bond; see Die jüdische Ehescheidung und der jüdische Scheidebrief; ein historische Untersuchung 1–2 (Strassburg: 1911–12), 63–4. Cf. the polar view of C. Westermann concerning Gen 2:24 (Genesis 1–11: A Commentary, trans. J.J. Scullion [London: SPCK, and Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 1984)], 232–3). See, also, M. Zehnder, who argues, inter alia, that Mal 2:16 expresses the view of marriage as indissoluble (“A Fresh Look at Malachi II 13–16,” VT 53 [2003], 224–59), and the following note.

4 See G. Brin, “Divorce at Qumran,” in M. Bernstein, et al., eds., Legal Texts and Legal Issues: Proceedings of the Second meeting of the International Organization for Qumran Studies, Cambridge 1995 (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 231–44, who argues, quite cogently, on the basis of 4QXII (and 11QT and the Damascus Document) for the existence of a similar view among the members of the Qumran community.

5 See VanderKam, Jubilees, 112, in connection with the two readings. I examine the literary and chronological implications of the readings in a forthcoming study “Spousal Harmony and the Marital Bond in Jubilees: The Evidence of Hagar”.

6 This datum need not contradict Jubilees' allowance for polygyny among the patriarchs (at least in extremis). It may simply indicate that the bond between Abraham and Hagar remained in force even after her expulsion; accordingly, so Jubilees implies, Abraham would either have returned Hagar (following Sarah's death, with the reading “because Sarah had died”) or, at the least, would not have taken another wife without obtaining Hagar's consent. See, especially, the remarks of Qimhi to Mal 2:10.

7 Ibid.

8 Note that Jubilees probably understood Mal 2:10–16 as condemning both exogamy and improper spousal conduct, a point which I develop more fully in “Spousal Harmony”.

9 See G.P. Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics as Developed from Malachi (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), 148–65, and, more recently, Zehnder, “A Fresh Look”.

10 That the use of word-play need not be seen as a factor in Jubilees' formulation (despite the somewhat similar אשתי/אישה) is suggested by the Elephantine documents, where the two terms are אנתתי//בעלה. Note that M.A. Friedman has argued that the original formula in Hosea's would have been “בעל”, as in the Elephantine documents, but this formula was avoided by Hosea precisely of its Baalistic connotations (“Israel's Response in Hosea 2:17b: ‘You are My Husband’,” JBL 99 [1980], 199–204). See, further, the view of Z. Falk, who maintains that Hos 2:16–18, and the reference to “אישי” (v. 18) in particular, reflects a view of marriage involving fundamental equality between spouses (“על הנישואין בספר הושע ובספר מלאכי,” BM 65 [1976], 212) – the very position advocated by Jubilees.

11 Moreover, the form מאישה, reflected in Jubilees (and LXX), is noteworthy inasmuch as there is no other man in existence when Adam uttered these words; thus, the apparently superfluous specification “her husband/man” ought likely be taken as a means of highlighting the special bond obtaining between husband and wife. While it is true that this feature is preserved in LXX, as well, the latter uses this reading in creating the sound-pair מאישה//אשה; as noted, this is not true of Jubilees' text. See the following note. For further discussion of Gen 2:23, see S. Kogut, “לזאת יקרא אשה כי מאיש לקחה־זאת (Gen 2:23) – A Folk Etymology?,” Tarbiz 51 (1982), 293–8 (Hebrew).

12 Moreover, the unity effected through sexual union may receive further emphasis through Jubilees' framing of Gen, at its beginning and end, with the phrase “being one flesh” (3:7). However, this may be nothing more than a rhetorical device; see, e.g., 24:9,11, and I. Kalimi's discussion of inclusio in Chr (The Book of Chronicles: Historical Writing and Literary Devices [Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2000] 281–308 [Hebrew]).

13 See U. Cassuto, From Adam to Noah (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1974), 133–35 (Hebrew). See, also, J.D. Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), 111–19, I. Pardes, “Beyond Genesis 3: The Politics of Maternal Naming,” in A. Brenner and L. Schottroff, eds., A Feminist Companion to Genesis (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), 173–93, and Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, 164, n. 162.

14 It is true that Jubilees 3:24 (cf. Gen 3:16) indicates that Adam is (destined) to dominate her, but this takes place only after the two have eaten the forbidden fruit. On a related note, Jubilees' text here reflects the Vorlage ואל אישך תשובתך (lit., “your return is towards your husband”), rather than the masoretic ואל אישך תשוקתך (“your urge is towards your husband”). It is uncertain whether Jubilees' reading, reflected in LXX, Vulg, Pesh., and the Samaritan Pentateuch, bears on the present discussion; indeed, it is not clear precisely what Jubilees (or the Vorlage informing its text) has in mind. (More fundamentally, scholars differ as to whether this reading reflects a genuine textual variant or an exegetical rendering.) Now, it is possible that Jubilees, like rabbinic sources, interpreted the words “ואל אישך תשוקתך” contextually, viz., (even) after having experienced the pain of giving birth a woman must not swear off further sexual contact with her husband but, rather, must “return” to him. At the same time, it is noteworthy that the text of Jubilees, et al., involves a clear parallel between the man and woman: he is destined to “return” to the earth whence he was created, while she is destined to return to her husband, from whom she was formed. This parallel is also present in Gen 2:23 and 3:19, which state that man was “taken” from the ground and that the woman was “taken” from man (see Jubilees 3:6,25). The precise meaning of such a “return,” however, is uncertain. It is possible that this reading implies that a wife must always return (literally) to her husband, even if the two have been separated for some time. Together with LXX's reading of Songs 7:11, “και επ’ εμε ή επιστροφη αυτου,” which reflects the Vorlage, “אני לדודי ועלי תשובתו,” the two biblical passages would then form a complementary pair expressive of the principle reflected in Jubilees' formulation of the relationship between Abraham and Hagar, as well as the view attributed to Paul (ICor 7:10–11). See, also, LXX's reading of 2Sam (=2Kingdoms) 17:3, which reads: “[I will bring all the people back to you,] as a bride returns to her husband (όν τροπον επιστρεφει ή νυμφη προς τον αν ρααυτης)”. For further discussion of the versional readings of Gen 3:16 (and related verses), see Y. Maori, The Peshitta Version, 71–3, and M.A. Zipor, Tradition and Transmission: Studies in Ancient Biblical Translation and Interpretation (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2001), 180 (Hebrew).

15 See below.

16 See G.P. Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics as Developed from Malachi, VTSup 52 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), 164–65.

17 Ibid.; see, also, below.

18 An interesting datum bearing on this issue emerges from the commentary of Saadiah Gaon to Gen. 24. B. Qidd. 6a lists various formulations which, when accompanied by the required “bride-price,” effect marriage. One such formulation is “הרי את אשתי”. Interestingly, Saadiah explains this rabbinic position by appealing to Genesis's formulation, “לזאת יקרא אשה” (see, M. Zucker, ed., Saadyah's Commentary on Genesis [New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1984], 414). This explanation, hardly required by the pericope in b. Qidd., may indicate that Saadiah understood Gen 2:23 as constituting a legal formulary; cf. the commentary of Solomon b. Menahem HaMeiri (בית הבחירה) to Qidd. 6a.

19 Ibid., 225–27: see, also, Hugenberger's discussion of this formulary as reflecting either the verba solemnia of a marriage ceremony or merely a documentary formula. Naturally, Jubilees' formulation at 3:6 comports nicely with the Qumran community's “full-blown” mutuality, which includes proscription of polygyny and understands the forbidden sexual unions of Lev 18 and 20 as applicable to both men and women.

20 See, inter alios, Friedman, “Israel's Response,” 199–204, and Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, 225–28 and 231–34. Several scholars have rejected this position; see, inter alios, R. Gordis, “Hosea's Marriage and Message: A New Approach,” HUCA 25 (1954), 9–35, and Hugenberger, op. cit. The literary-historical connection between Hos 2:4 and the Elephantine documents does not, ultimately, affect the present argument.

21 See the preceding note.

22 See Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, 236–8.

23 Similar formulations of marriage and/or divorce proceedings are attested elsewhere in the ancient Near East; see Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, 219–28. See, also, the evidence of another Second Temple composition, Tobit 7:12, discussed by Friedman (“Israel's Response,” 203).

24 I employ the term “literary echo” since Jubilees' formulation appears to involve more than a mere literary or lexical allusion. For recent discussion of the phenomenon of inner-biblical allusion/exegesis and related techniques, see, inter alios, B.D. Sommer, A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40–66 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), especially, chapter 1, and P.R. Noble, “Esau, Tamar, and Joseph: Criteria for Identifying Biblical Allusions,” VT 52 (2002), 219–52.

25 Halpern-Amaru claims that Adam's words are directed to Eve (Empowerment, 10); if so, this would comport fully with the notion that his words constitute verba solemnia. Unfortunately, I am aware of nothing in Jubilees' grammatical formulation which suggests that Adam's utterance is directed at Eve. Of course, this does not, in itself, make the notion of verba solemnia impossible. Also of possible relevance is Halpern-Amaru's view that Adam utters these words following the couple's initial conjugal encounter (ibid.). This observation, if correct, entails the following questions. (1) Is there any point in uttering verba solemnia following – rather than prior to – the consummation of marriage? (2) Might this indicate that Jubilees' formulation involves a literary application of the legal formulary rather than an actual instance of the formulary?

26 See Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, 234, and K. Van der Toorn, “The Significance of the Veil in the Ancient Near East,” in Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish and Near Eastern Ritual, Law, and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom, eds. D. P. Wright, et al. (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 327–39, especially 336–7.

27 See the review and discussion in Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, 231–4.

28 Hosea: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, AB 24A (New York: Doubleday, 1989), 219–24. In their view, Hos 2:4 expresses the notion that Israel's apostasy has rendered its marriage (to YHWH) dissolved de facto, though the marriage remains in force de jure.

29 See the discussion of these two approaches in Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, 232–3.

30 See Brin, “Divorce at Qumran”.

31 For other arguments in support of the position of Friedman, et al., see Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, 232–4.

32 Note, also, that the marital (rather than creation) motif comports nicely with Halpern-Amaru's observation that Jubilees 3:6 situates Adam's utterance following the couple's first act of sexual union (Empowerment, 10).

33 See Halpern-Amaru, Empowerment. Note that students of the Hebrew Bible have proffered diverse views concerning the socio-literary/theological function of Gen 2:23–24 and its purportedly paradigmatic role; see Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, 151–6. There is no question, however, of the paradigmatic nature of the first human couple in Jubilees.

34 Moreover, many scholars have noted that, in addition to the Elephantine marriage formulary itself, the documents' stipulation of the equal right of both spouses to terminate the marriage and the husband's explicit renunciation of polygyny point to an underlying mutuality in spousal matters; see ibid., 225–7; M.A. Friedman, Jewish Marriage in Palestine: A Cairo Geniza Study (Tel Aviv and New York: Tel Aviv University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, 1980), vol. 1, 312–46, and Falk, “על הנישואין”. It is unclear, of course, whether the Elephantine community proscribed polygyny altogether or, rather, whether the explicit reference to this practice indicates that it would normally have been tolerated.

35 See above, n. 3.

36 This issue is further complicated by the (albeit, less than convincing) position of some scholars who claim that the allowance for mutual divorce at Elephantine reflects Egyptian, rather than Semitic, influence; see Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant, 226.


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