Moses, Chronicles of

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MOSES, CHRONICLES OF (Heb. דִבְרֵי הַיָּמִים לְמֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ, Divrei ha-Yamim le-Moshe Rabbenu), a story on the life of Moses written in the early Middle Ages. The prophet's early life, before the Exodus from Egypt, forms the major part of the story, while his later life and death are described only very briefly. The author based himself on some of the midrashic interpretations of the life of Moses as told in the Book of Exodus, but the many adventures ascribed in the work to Moses are the product of the author's fertile imagination.

According to the story, *Balaam the Magician was adviser to the king of Egypt in Moses' time; *Jethro, also one of the king's advisers, was driven away from the royal court after he tried to help the Jews in Egypt. The author also describes a number of miracles (not mentioned in the Bible) that supposedly occurred in Moses' youth and which saved him from disaster. Completely new stories were also added to Moses' biography, e.g., a very detailed tale about his becoming king of Ethiopia, after he had driven away Balaam, who had seized the Ethiopian throne. In the story, Moses reigned for 40 years in the kingdom. A. Shinan published an edition of this book in 1977–78. There is a Spanish translation by L. Girón (1988). There is an East Slavic version of the "Life of Moses," preserved in manuscripts from the 15th century on, that agree in most details with the Hebrew text (Taube). "Divrei ha-Yamim le-Moshe Rabbenu" is similar to other early medieval tales in which a biblical story is adapted in the light of conventions, mores, and concepts of the Middle Ages. The narrative element is usually emphasized in these stories. Abraham and many other sages were also the subjects of such tales which were often erroneously considered to belong to midrashic literature. Later writers in adapting biblical stories also compiled and adapted these different versions, e.g., the author of *"Sefer ha-Yashar" (Venice, 1625; see *Fiction, Hebrew: The Hebrew Story in the Middle Ages). "Midrash Petirat Moshe Rabbenu" ("A Midrash on the Death of Moses") is another story about Moses written in the Middle Ages. The narrative aspect is not dominant, but rather the midrashic elements which are ethical in content and meant to convey a moral. Moses' death is described in a mythological setting involving a confrontation between God and Samael (Satan).


A. Jellinek, Beit ha-Midrash, 1 (19382), xxif. (Ger.), 115–29 (Heb.); 2 (19382), vii–xi (Ger.), 1–11 (Heb.). add. bibliography: A. Shinan, in: Scripta Hiersolymitana, 27 (1978), 66–78; L. Girón, in: Sefarad, 48:2 (1988), 390–425; M. Taube, in: Jews and Slavs, i (1993), 84–119.

[Joseph Dan]