There are at least three “book of Jasher” (Hebrew: book of the upright)
- the Book of the Upright – a lost book of Hebrew poetry cited twice in the Old Testament
- Sefer haYashar – a Hebrew-language forgery published in Venice in 1625 by Yosef ben Samuel
- Book of Jashar – an English language forgery published in 1750 by the London fraudster Jacob Illive
1 . The Biblical citations of the lost poetic ‘Book of the Upright’
The first text, probably not meant to be taken literally, is from Joshua 10:
12 At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,
“Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. (Joshua 10:13 ESV)
And in 2 Samuel 1:
17 And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and Jonathan his son, 18 and he said it should be taught to the people of Judah; behold, it is written in the Book of Jashar. He said:
19 “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
20 Tell it not in Gath,
publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult.
From these two surviving extracts it looks like the book was a book of poetry or a songbook. The sun did not literally stop still.
2. Ben Samuel’s “Book of Jashar”
A ‘Sefer ha Yashar’ (Venice, 1625) printed by Yosef ben Samuel who claimed that it had previously been published in Naples in 1552, though no trace or mention of any such work can be found other than by himself. Yosef ben Samuel’s work was rejected by the rabbinical council of Venice, and heavily criticised by Leon of Modena (1571–1648) who identified it as a forgery based on the two Biblical citations.
3. Ilive’s Book of Jasher
Jacob Ilive’s forgery (London, 1750) was a deliberate attempt to fraudulently make money. The title page of the book claims: “translated into English by Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus, of Britain, Abbot of Canterbury”, and it is often under this fictitious name that reprints are sold to the gullible on Amazon. Ilive was sentenced to three years in gaol for fraud.