The Sin of the Gentiles: The Prohibition of Eating Blood in the Book of Jubileesby Todd R. Hanneken

Journal for the Study of Judaism


History / Literature and Literary Theory / Religious studies



JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF JUDAISM 46 (2015) 1-27 Joumal/or the Study of


The Sin of the Gentiles: The Prohibition of Eating

Blood in the Book of Jubilees

Todd. K. Hanneken

St. Mary’s University

One Camino Santa Maria, San Antonio, t x 78228, u .s.A . thanneken@stmarytx. edu


Jubilees exhorts Israelites to separate from Gentiles in everyway. Jubilees does not sim­ ply 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 prac­ tices. 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 main­ tains 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 pro­ cessed according to Levitical procedure.


Jubilees - Gentiles - separation - eating blood - Genesis 9 - Leviticus 17 - Aramaic Levi

Jubilees maintains a radical agenda of separation from Gentiles.1 This is evident in the discussion of specific issues such as Sabbath (2:19), nakedness (3:31), 1 The most recent discussion of anti-Gentile rhetoric in Jubilees is that of Isaac Oliver, “Forming Jewish Identity by Formulating Legislation for Gentiles,” jaj 4 (2013): 105-32, who discusses previous scholarship including Zeitlin, Rönsch, Schwarz, Werman, and Hayes.

Oliver addresses the phenomenon of creating boundaries between Jews and Gentiles in © KO N IN K LIJK E BRILL NV, LEID E N , 2 0 1 4 | D O I 1 0 .1 1 6 3 /1 5 7 0 0 6 3 1 -1 2 3 4 0 0 6 6 2 HANNEKEN calendar (6:35), circumcision (15:35), and intermarriage (30:7). However,

Jubilees goes beyond these specific issues and mandates a radical separation from any contact with Gentiles:

Now you, my son Jacob, remember what I say and keep the command­ ments of your father Abraham. Separate from the nations, and do not eat with them. Do not act as they do, and do not become their compan­ ion, for their actions are something that is impure, and all their ways are defiled and something abominable and detestable. (Jub. 22:i6)* 2

However, Jubilees faced three problems in making this kind of exhortation.

First, it was not clear to Israelites at the time of Jubilees, nor was it clear from the received sources, that all Gentiles are quite so intrinsically evil. Even among Israelites who resisted assimilation and maintained a certain contempt for Gentiles, contact with Gentiles was never so categorically prohibited.3

Received sources suggested that intermarriage could lead Israelites to idola­ try, but did not categorically prohibit all contact with Gentiles. Second, since

Jubilees claims that Gentile deeds are evil in themselves, not only if Israelites adopt them, there was a problem in establishing a standard of justice by which

Gentiles could be judged. The Sinai covenant sets the standard for Israelite sin, including adopting certain Gentile practices, but does not establish that those practices are evil for Gentiles. Third, even if Gentiles can be categori­ cally judged evil by a fair standard, why could a mature Israelite not co-exist with a Gentile and simply avoid the offending practices? In order to address these problems Jubilees rewrites its sources to identify a sin that is intrinsic and exclusive to Gentiles, binding on Gentiles, and so dangerous that even proxim­ ity is dangerous to Israelites .Jubilees constructs eating blood as the keystone in a system of Gentile sin which justly leads to the catastrophic destruction of all

Gentiles, such that Israelites should avoid their very presence.

Jubilees and rabbinic literature through legislating observation of the Sabbath and circumci­ sion. Oliver considers the historical context of why Jubilees opposes Jewish Hellenization and that Jubilees demonizes Gentiles. The present article explains the legal exegesis in Jubilees supporting the anti-Gentile claims observed by previous scholars. 2 Unless otherwise noted text and translations of Jubilees are from James C. VanderKam, The

Book o f Jubilees: A Critical Text (2 vols.; csco 510/511; Leuven: Peeters, 1989). 3 Resistance to Antiochus Epiphanes did not prohibit foreign alliance according to 1 Macc 8:12.

Ben Sira found value in traveling among foreigners (Sir 39:4).



First, Jubilees interprets “eating blood” as eating meat that was not pro­ cessed by Levites. That is, the prohibition of eating blood serves as a summary of a complete set of laws of blood and sacrifice followed by all Levites and only Levites. Because Gentiles do not possess the books transmitted only to the Levites they are incapable of preparing acceptable meat, even if it were from a clean animal and not sacrificed to idols. It does not claim that any or all Gentiles participate in dietary or cultic practices that involve direct con­ sumption of blood, which might have been easily refuted. This interpretation establishes a clear demarcation through an offense that is indisputably char­ acteristic of all Gentiles and easily avoided by Israelites. Second Jubilees inter­ prets Gen 9 as a covenant binding on Gentiles. Thus, eating blood is an offense not only for Israelites but for all those descended from Noah. In fact, all are bound to the highest standard of culpability, including testimony, command­ ment, covenant, and oath. Third, Jubilees creates a new category of punish­ ment for the violation of the Levitical slaughter regulations, namely violent eradication of all descendants.

No one who consumes blood or who sheds blood on the earth will be left. He will be left with neither descendants nor posterity living beneath heaven because they will go into sheol and will descend into the place of judgment. All of them will depart into deep darkness through a violent death. (Jub. 7:29)