The Sin of the Gentiles: The Prohibition of Eating Blood in the Book of Jubilees

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism

Jubilees exhorts Israelites to separate from Gentiles in every way. Jubilees does not simply repeat familiar arguments that Gentiles will lead Israelites to sin if they adopt their ways. Rather, Jubilees argues that merely being in the presence of Gentiles is dangerous because they are liable to a violent death at any moment for their abhorrent daily practices. At the same time, Jubilees maintains a strict standard for God’s justice such that sinners must be warned of the crime and its punishment in advance. Jubilees maintains that the ancestors of all nations willingly entered into a covenant which demands eradication of entire nations for the sin of eating blood. In order to make this point Jubilees interprets Genesis 9 and other sources to indicate that all nations are bound to a covenant which demands eradication for the crime of eating meat that was not processed according to Levitical procedure.

  • 4

    William K. Gilders, Blood Ritual in the Hebrew Bible: Meaning and Power (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), 16-17, 25, has appropriately warned against projecting theological explanations onto these terse words based on the scholarly imagination, or assuming that an explanation suggested in one source goes without saying in all the sources. Gilders further notes that the claim that blood is life hardly makes it obvious that life is something one would not want to eat, citing anthropological evidence of cultures that value consuming the life-force of enemies or animals.

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  • 10

    Cana Werman, “דין כיסוי דם ואכילתו בהלכה הכוהנית ובהלכת חכמים,” Tarbiz 63 (1994): 173-84, here 174; Werman, “The Rules of Consuming and Covering the Blood in Priestly and Rabbinic Law,” RevQ 16/64 (1995): 621-36, here 622; and Werman, “עיצוב מאורעות דר המבול בספר היובלים,” Tarbiz 64 (1995): 183-202, here 198-99.

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  • 14

    Anderson, “Intentional and Unintentional Sins in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 52. See also Bennie H. Reynolds III, “The Expression ביד רמה in the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Legacy of the Holiness School in Essene Legal Texts,” JBL 132 (2013): 585-605.

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  • 15

    Anderson, “The Status of the Torah Before Sinai,” 19-22; Anderson, “Intentional and Unintentional Sins in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 60-61.

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  • 17

    James L. Kugel, A Walk through Jubilees: Studies in the Book of Jubilees and the World of its Creation (JSJSup 156; Leiden: Brill, 2012), 3. See also the extended discussion of the importance and meaning of “testimony” in Michael Segal, The Book of Jubilees: Rewritten Bible, Redaction, Ideology and Theology (JSJSup 117; Leiden: Brill, 2007), 282-316.

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  • 22

    See Werman, “‏דין כיסוי דם ואכילתו‎,” 174; “The Rules of Consuming and Covering Blood,” 622; and “‏דר המבול‎,” 191-94.

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  • 24

    Werman, “‏דר המבול‎,” 196.

  • 25

    Milgrom, Leviticus 17-22, 1503. For a discussion of the meaning of “excision” see Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (ab 3; New York: Doubleday, 1991), 457-60.

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  • 30

    Betsy Halpern-Amaru, Rewriting the Bible: Land and Covenant in Post-Biblical Jewish Literature (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1994), 28, 140-41 n. 19.

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  • 37

    A similar observation was made by Werman, “דין כיסוי דם ואכילתו‎,” 174; cf. “Consuming and Covering Blood,” 622.

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  • 43

    See James L. Kugel, Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible as It Was at the Start of the Common Era (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998), 244-51.

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  • 44

    See especially Segal, The Book of Jubilees, 263-69.

  • 45

    Todd R. Hanneken, “Angels and Demons in the Book of Jubilees and Contemporary Apocalypses,” Hen 28.2 (2006): 11-25, here 17-18; Hanneken, Subversion of the Apocalypses, 63-64, 77.

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