The End of Days; or, “Why I Love the Targum”

30 09 2008

In Genesis 49:1, Jacob tells his children to come near:

ויקרא יעקב אל־בניו ויאמר האספו ואגידה לכם את אשר־יקרא אתכם באחרית הימים
And Jacob called his sons and he said, “Gather around and let me tell you what will occur to you at the end of days”.

According to the Babylonian Talmud (bPes 56a), Jacob wished to tell them about the messianic era, but was suddenly stricken with forgetfulness and so simply blessed them all instead. In case we didn’t get the relationship between “end of days” and the messianic era, the following is how Targum Pseudo-Jonathan ‘translates’ this same verse into Aramaic:

וקרא יעקב לבנוי ואמר להום אדכו מסואבותא ואחוי לכון רזיא סתימיא קציא גניזיא ומתן אגרהון דצדיקיא ופורענותהון דרשיעיא וטלניתא דעדן מה היא כחדא מתכנשין תריסר שבטי ישארל ומקפין דרגשא דדהבא דרביע עלה ומן דאתגלי איקר שכינתא דיי קצא דעתיד מלכא משיחא למתי איתכסי מנה ובכן אמר איתו ואיתני לכון מה דיארע יתכון בסוף יומיא

And Jacob called his sons and he said to them, “Be cleansed of your impurities and I shall tell you the secret mysteries, the hidden end-times; the giving of the rewards of the righteous and the punishments of the wicked, and what the pleasures of paradise are.” The twelve tribes of Israel gathered as one, and surrounded the golden couch on which he lay. But as the essence of the presence of God began to reveal the time of the coming of the Messiah, it was hidden from him. So he [only] said, “Come and let me tell you what will occur to you at the end of days”.

And who says that this Targum is paraphrastic! Seems pretty literal to me…

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