The Book of Jubilees (Hebrew: Sefer haYovelim), sometimes called the Lesser Genesis (Leptogenesis), is an ancient Jewish religious work, considered one of the Pseudepigrapha by most Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christians. It was well known to Early Christian writers in the East and the West. Later it was so thoroughly suppressed that no complete Hebrew, Greek or Latin version has survived. It is considered canonical for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, where it is known as the Book of Division (Ge’ez: Mets’hafe Kufale). In the modern scholarly view, it reworks material found in the biblical books of Genesis and Exodus in the light of concerns of some 2nd century BC Jews.
The Book of Jubilees claims to present “the history of the division of the days of the Law, of the events of the years, the year-weeks, and the jubilees of the world” as secretly revealed to Moses (in addition to the Torah or “Instruction”) by Angels while Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights. The chronology given in Jubilees is based on multiples of seven; the jubilees are periods of 49 years, seven ‘year-weeks’, into which all of time has been divided. According to the author of Jubilees, all proper customs that mankind should follow are determined by God’s decree.
Jubilees covers much of the same ground as Genesis, but often with additional detail, and addressing Moses in the second person as the entire history of creation, and of Israel up to that point, is recounted in divisions of 49 years each, or “Jubilees”. The elapsed time from the creation, up to Moses receiving the scriptures upon Sinai during the Exodus, is calculated as fifty Jubilees, less the 40 years still to be spent wandering in the desert before entering Canaan — or 2,410 years.
Four classes of angels are mentioned: angels of the presence, angels of sanctifications, guardian angels over individuals, and angels presiding over the phenomena of nature. Enoch was the first man initiated by the angels in the art of writing, and wrote down, accordingly, all the secrets of astronomy, of chronology, and of the world’s epochs. As regards demonology, the writer’s position is largely that of the deuterocanonical writings from both New and Old Testament times.
The Book of Jubilees narrates the genesis of angels on the first day of Creation and the story of how a group of fallen angels mated with mortal females, giving rise to a race of giants known as the Nephilim. The Ethiopian version states that the “angels” were in fact the disobedient offspring of Seth (Deqiqa Set), while the “mortal females” were daughters of Cain. This is also the view held by most of the earliest commentators. Their hybrid children, the Nephilim in existence during the time of Noah, were wiped out by the great flood.
Biblical references to “giants” found in Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua have confused some who regard these “giants” to be the same as the antediluvian Nephilim; the Hebrew words for “giants” in most of these verses are “Anakim” or “Rephaim”. (One such verse, Num. 13:33, does refer to the sons of Anak as ‘Nephilim’.) These references do not necessarily contradict the account of the original Nephilim being completely destroyed in the Deluge. However, Jubilees does state that God granted ten percent of the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim to try to lead mankind astray after the flood.
According to this book, Hebrew is the language of Heaven, and was originally spoken by all creatures in the Garden, animals and man, however the animals lost their power of speech when Adam and Eve were expelled. Some time following the Deluge, the earth is apportioned into three divisions for the three sons of Noah, and his sixteen grandsons. After the destruction of the tower of Babel, their families were scattered to their respective allotments, and Hebrew was forgotten, until Abraham was taught it by the angels.
Jubilees also contains a few scattered allusions to the Messianic kingdom. RH Charles in 1913 wrote: “This kingdom was to be ruled over by a Messiah sprung, not from Levi — that is, from the Maccabean family — as some of his contemporaries expected — but from Judah. This kingdom would be gradually realized on earth, and the transformation of physical nature would go hand in hand with the ethical transformation of man until there was a new heaven and a new earth. Thus, finally, all sin and pain would disappear and men would live to the age of 1,000 years in happiness and peace, and after death enjoy a blessed immortality in the spirit world.”