Editorial: The Book of Jasher

Have you read the book of Jasher? No, and neither have I. While not part of the canon of Scripture, it is mentioned twice in our Bible. The first mention of the book of Jasher is in Joshua 10:13. The second and last mention is in 2 Samuel 1:18. It is David’s sad lamentation over the deaths of Jonathan and Saul. He caused it to be written in the book of Jasher to teach a poignant lesson to the sons of Judah. On one occasion, the book of Jasher celebrated the great triumph of Israel; on the other, it recounted the tragic fall of the great men of Israel.

The Triumph of Trust

The triumph of Israel at Gibeon on that memorable day when the sun stood still was written in the book of Jasher for all to remember. What a day it was! We are told that there was no day which could match it in Israel’s history. It was a day when God hearkened unto the voice of a man (Josh 10:14). It must have been a tremendous encouragement to a new generation who had heard of God’s wonders in Egypt but had not seen them. They had seen the Jordan dry up, but here was something even more amazing: the sun standing still.

The record of it in the book of Jasher for future generations to read would serve as a reminder of the mighty power of God, and of the merciful care of God for His people. God intended the history of the past to give hope for the future.

The Tragedy of Defeat

The last entry of which we know in the book of Jasher was totally different in its character. David’s lamentation over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan makes for moving reading; his skill in poetry is equaled by his sensitivity to their character, but it is a mournful dirge, an elegy in a day of defeat.

David instructed that it be entered into the book of Jasher as a reminder to future generations of the tragedy which can mark departure from God. His tears were genuine, and his loss palpable. “The song of the bow” (2Sam 1:18, NKJV) is both lamentable and lovely in its language, but it was a song to be learned by coming generations.

The Teaching of Future Generations

The book of Jasher recorded two contrasting events: the contrasts are marked. It was not only the outcome, but all that led up to it. There was an ear which was deaf to God but open to a witch in contrast to ears that waited upon God in the day of Joshua. There was the self-sufficiency of Saul in contrast to the dependence of Joshua. There was disobedience instead of obedience. In Joshua’s day we read that “the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel” (Josh 10:42). Saul was forsaken of God and fought on his own; God was actually his “enemy” on that occasion (1Sam 28:16). Defeat was the only conceivable outcome.

Triumph and tragedy recorded side by side in the same volume remind us that God can be trusted but he cannot be trifled with. There is no reason for pessimism in the service of God; but there can never be presumption. Let us hear the inspired writer’s solemn reminder: “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb 12:28).