Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster , at sacred-texts.com
XXXVIII. (1) When Naphtali grew old and came to an old age, and had completed his years of strength, and fulfilled the duty of the earth-born man, he began to command his children, and he said unto them, 'My children, come and draw near and receive the command of your father.' They answered, and said, 'Lo, we hearken to fulfil all that thou wilt command us.' And he said unto them, 'I do not command you concerning my silver, nor concerning my gold, nor concerning all my substance that I leave unto you here under the sun, nor do I command you any difficult thing which you may not be able to accomplish; but I speak to you about a very easy matter, which you can easily fulfil.'
(2) His sons answered, and said a second time, 'Speak, O father, for we listen. Then he said unto them, 'I leave you no command save concerning the fear of God; Him ye shall serve, to Him ye shall cling.' They said unto him, What need hath He of our service?' And he answered, 'It is not that God hath need of any creature, but that all the creatures need Him. Neither hath He created the world for naught, but that His creatures should fear Him, and that none should do to his neighbour what he would not have done to himself.' They then said, 'Our father, hast thou, forsooth, seen us departing from thy ways, or from the ways of our fathers, either to the right or to the left?' And he answered, 'God and I are witnesses that it is even as ye say; but I dread only the future, that ye may not err after the gods of strange nations; that ye should not go in the ways of the peoples of the lands, and that you should not join the children of Joseph; only the children of Levi and the children of Judah shall you join.'
(3) They said to him, 'What dost thou see that thou commandest us concerning it?' He answered, 'Because I see that in the future the children of Joseph will depart from the Lord, the God of their fathers, and induce the children of Israel to sin, and will cause them to be banished from the good land into another that is not ours, as we have been exiled through him to the bondage of Egypt. I will also tell you the vision I have seen. When I was pasturing the flock I saw my twelve(?) brothers feeding with me in the field; and lo, our father came, and said to us, "My children, go (run) and let everyone lay hold here before me on anything that he can get." And we answered, and said, "What shall we take possession of, as we do not see anything else but the sun, the moon, and the stars?" And he said, "Take hold of them." When Levi heard it, he took a staff (rod) in his hands, and jumped upon the sun and rode on it. When Judah saw it, he did in like wise; he also took a rod and jumped upon the moon, and rode on it. So also every one
of the nine tribes rode upon his star and his planet in the heavens; Joseph alone remained upon the earth.
(4) 'Jacob, our father, said to him, "My son, why hast thou not done as thy brothers?" He answered, "What availeth the woman-born in heaven, as in the end he must needs stand upon the earth?" Whilst Joseph was speaking, behold there stood near by him a mighty bull with wings like the wings of a stork, and his horns were like unto the horns of the Reëm. And Jacob said to him, "Get up, my son Joseph, and ride upon him." And Joseph got up and mounted upon the bull. And Jacob left us. For about four hours Joseph gloried in the bull; now he walked and ran, anon he flew up with him, till he came near to Judah, and with the staff he had in his hands he began to beat his brother Judah. Judah said to him, "My brother, why dost thou beat me?" He answered, "Because thou holdest in thy hands twelve rods, and I have only one; give them unto me, and then there will be peace."
(5) 'But Judah refused to give them to him, and Joseph beat him till he had taken from him ten against his will, and had left only two with him. Joseph then said to his ten brothers, "Wherefore run ye after Judah and Levi? Depart from them at once!" When the brothers of Joseph heard his words, they departed from Judah and Levi like one man, and followed Joseph, and there remained with Judah only Benjamin and Levi. When Levi beheld this, he descended from the sun full of anger (sadness). And Joseph said unto Benjamin, "Benjamin, my brother, art thou not my brother? Come thou also with me." But Benjamin refused to go with Joseph. When the day drew to an end, there arose a mighty storm, which separated Joseph from his brothers, so that no two were left together. When I beheld this vision, I related it unto my father Jacob, and he said unto me, "My son, it is only a dream, which will not come to pass (will neither ascend nor descend), for it hath not been repeated."
(6) 'Not a long period, however, elapsed after that before I saw another vision. We were standing all together
with our father Jacob, at the shore of the Great Sea. And, behold, there was a ship sailing in the middle of the sea without a sailor and a man (pilot). Our father said to us, "Do ye see what I am seeing?" We answered, "We see it." He then said to us, "Look what I am doing, and do the same." He took off his clothes, threw himself into the sea, and we all followed him. The first were Levi and Judah and they jumped in (to the ship), and Jacob with them. In that ship there was all the goodness of the world. Jacob said, "Look at the mast and see what is written on it; for there is no ship on which the name of the master should not be written on the mast."
(7) 'Levi and Judah looked up, and they saw there was written, "This ship and all the good therein belongs to the son of Berakhel (the one whom God had blessed)." When Jacob heard that, he rejoiced very much, bowed down and thanked God, and said, "Not only hast Thou blessed me on earth, but Thou hast blessed me on the sea too!" He then said, "My children, be men, and whatever each one of you will seize, that shall be his share." Thereupon Levi ascended the big mast and sat upon it; the second after him to ascend the other mast was Judah, and he sat upon it. My other brothers then took each his oar, and Jacob our father grasped the two rudders to steer the ship by then. Joseph alone was left, and Jacob said unto him, "My son Joseph, take thou also thine oar." But Joseph refused. When my father saw that Joseph refused to take his oar, he said unto him, "Come here, my son, and grasp one of the rudders which I hold in my hands, and steer the ship, whilst thy brothers row with the oars until you reach land." And he taught each one of us, and he said to us, "Thus ye shall steer the ship, and ye will not be afraid of the waves of the sea, nor of the blast of the wind when it shall rise against you."
(8) 'When he had made an end of speaking, he disappeared from us. Joseph grasped both the rudders, one with the right hand and one with the left, and my other brothers were rowing, and the ship sailed on and floated
over the waters. Levi and Judah sat upon the mast to look out for the way (course) the ship was to take. As long as Joseph and Judah were of one mind, so that when Judah showed to Joseph which was the right way, Joseph accordingly directed thither the ship, the ship sailed on peaceably without hindrance. After a while, however, a quarrel arose between Joseph and Judah, and Joseph did not steer any longer the ship according to the words of his father, and to the teaching of Judah; and the ship went wrong, and the waves of the sea dashed it on a rock, so that the ship foundered.
(9) 'Levi and Judah then descended from the mast to save their lives, and every one of the brothers went to the shore to save himself. Behold, there came our father, Jacob, and found us cast about, one here and the other there. He said to us, "What is the matter with you, my sons? Have you not steered the ship as it ought to be steered, and as I had taught you?" We answered, "By the life of thy servants, we did not depart from anything that thou hast commanded us, but Joseph transgressed the word (sinned in the affair), for he did not keep the ship right according to thy command, and as he was told (taught) by Judah and Levi, for he was jealous of them." And he (Jacob) said unto us, "Show me the place (of the ship)." And he saw, and only the tops of the masts were visible. But lo, the ship floated on the surface of the water. My father whistled, and we gathered round him. He again threw himself into the sea as before, and he healed (repaired) the ship, and entered it; and he reproved Joseph, and said, "My son, thou shalt no more deceive and be jealous of thy brothers, for they were nearly lost through thee."
(10) 'When I had told this vision to my father lie clapped his hands and he sighed, and his eyes shed tears. I waited for awhile, but he did not answer. So I took the hand of my father to embrace it, and to kiss it, and I said to him, "O servant of the Lord, why do thine eyes shed tears?" He answered, "My son, the repetition of thy vision hath made my heart sink within me, and my body
is shaken with tremor by reason of my son Joseph, for I loved him above you all; and for the wickedness of my son Joseph you will be sent into captivity, and you will be scattered among the nations. For thy first and second visions are both but one." I therefore command you not to unite (combine) with the sons of Joseph, but only with Levi and Judah. I further tell you that my lot will be in the best of the middle of the land, and ye shall eat and be satisfied with the choice of its products. But I warn you not to kick in your fatness and not to rebel and not to oppose the will of God, who satisfies you with the best of His earth; and not to forget the Lord your God, the God of your fathers, who was chosen by our father Abraham when the nations of the earth were divided in the time of Phaleg.
(11) 'At that time the Lord—blessed be He!—came down from His high heavens, and brought down with Him seventy ministering angels, Michael being the first among them. He commanded them to teach the seventy descendants of Noah seventy languages. The angels descended immediately and fulfilled the command of their Creator. The holy language, the Hebrew, remained only in the house of Sem and Eber, and in the house of our father Abraham, who is one of their descendants.
(12) 'On that day the angel Michael took a message from the Lord, and said to each of the seventy nations separately, "You know the rebellion you undertook and the treacherous confederacy into which you entered against the Lord of heaven and earth, now choose to-day whom you will worship and who shall be your Protector in heaven." Nimrod, the wicked, answered, "I do not know anyone greater than those who taught me and my nation the languages of Kush." In like manner answered also Put, and Mizraim, and Tubal, and Javan, and Meseh, and Tiras; and every nation chose its own angel, and none of them mentioned the name of the Lord, blessed be He!
(13) 'But when Michael said unto our father Abraham, "Abram, whom dost thou choose, and whom wilt thou
worship?" Abram answered, "I choose and I will worship only Him who said and the world was created, Him who has created me in the womb of my mother, body within body, Him who has given unto me spirit and soul—Him I choose and to Him will I cling, I and my seed after me, all the days of the world." Then He divided the nations and apportioned to every nation its lot and share; and from that time all the nations separated themselves from the Lord, blessed be He! Only Abraham and his house remained with his Creator to worship Him, and after him Isaac and Jacob and myself. I therefore conjure you not to err and not to worship any other god than that one chosen by your fathers.
(14) 'For ye shall know there is no other god like unto Him, and no other who can do like His works in heaven and on earth, and there is none to do such wondrous and mighty deeds like unto Him. A portion only of His power you can see in the creation of man; how many remarkable wonders are there not in him! He created him perfect from head to foot; to listen with the ears, to see with the eyes, to understand with his brains, to smell with his nose, to bring forth the voice with his windpipe, to eat and drink with his gullet, to speak with his tongue, to pronounce with his mouth, to do work with his hands, to think with his heart, to laugh with his spleen, to be angry with his liver, to digest with his belly (stomach), to walk with his feet, to breathe with his lungs, to be counselled by his kidneys, and none of his members changes its function, but every one remains at its own.
(15) 'It is therefore proper for man to bear in mind all these things—to remember who hath created him, and who it is that hath wrought him out of a drop in the womb of the woman, and who it is that bringeth him out into the light of the world, and who hath given him the sight of the eyes and the walking of the feet, and who standeth him upright and hath given him intelligence for doing good deeds, and hath breathed into him a living soul and the spirit of purity. Blessed is the man who does not defile the Divine spirit which hath been put and breathed into him, and blessed is
he who returns it as pure as it was on the day when it was entrusted to (him by his) Creator.'
These are the words of Naphtali, the son of Israel, which he (commended) to his sons; they are sweeter than honey to the palate.