Page 164 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

Basic HTML Version

BENZION LURIE
Our Library of Lost Books
*
“T h e P e o p l e o f t h e B o o k ”
is th e hono r if ic title th a t has been
given to o u r peop le because o f the Bible, th e Book o f Books,
which the p ro p h e ts an d wise m en o f Israe l have b eq u e a th ed
to the peop les o f th e world . However, this is no t th e only rea son
fo r this title, fo r “T h e Peop le o f th e Book” p ro d u c e d m any
m o re books, a con s ide rab le p a r t o f which was lost a lready in
anc ien t times. R eg a rd in g th e ex istence o f these books th e re a re
fo u n d h e re an d th e re b u t few re fe rence s . We shall try to collate
the in fo rm a t io n r e g a rd in g these lost books an d to p re s e n t some
o f th e scholarly views ab o u t th e ir n a tu r e an d con ten ts .
I. Ancient Epic Poetry
BOOK OF THE WARS OF THE LORD
“Therefore the Book o f the Wars o f the Lord speaks o f Waheb
in Suphah, and the valleys o f Arnon.” (Num. 21:14)
I t is th o u g h t th a t this was a book o f po e try co n c e rn in g the
n a t io n ’s wars, th e he ro ic d eed s o f the w a rr io rs an d th e i r suc­
cesses in battle . H ence they were called “W ars o f th e L o rd ,”
as when Saul says to David, “you be my w a r r io r an d f igh t the
wars o f the L o rd ” (I Sam. 18:17), o r when Abigail says to David,
“because my lo rd is figh ting the wars o f th e L o rd ”
(ibid.,
25:28).
A b rah am Ibn -E z ra places the Book o f th e W ars o f th e L o rd
in th e p e r iod o f th e Pa tr ia rch s an d says: “T h is was a book in
its own r ig h t an d re c o rd e d th e re in a re th e wars o f th e L o rd
in b eh a lf o f those who fe a r h im ; an d it is possible th a t it is
f rom the tim e o f A b ra h am .”
A nd why was this an c ien t poem inc luded he re? In his
* Translated from the Hebrew article in
Sefer Shalom Sivan
(Jerusalem, 1980).
1 5 6