4Q474. A Rachel-Joseph Text

Torleif Elgvin


This paper discusses some aspects of 4Q474 (4QText Concerning Rachel and Joseph), concentrating upon its literary aspects. The fragment, previously designated 'sapiential work', preserves remnants of a parabiblical composition. The poorly preserved text refers to Rachel and thrice to a (beloved) son, which probably is Joseph. The text runs as follows.


¿¡¡ló bó¡¡¡¡ ^b? ¿ç µ,? 1

?wyja ¿l,w_k, l[,?¿w_?y¿b,?a¿ló bw_ha, ^bbó ?h,?jmç 2

¿d,y_d,y ^bb ?jób,?tçh 3

?rja ¿^_bó? hl ^¿t,?y ¿ayk hwhy taó l?w¿a,çó?l 4

?hyl[ ¿µ?jr¿l,? ¿ljór hdwam hwúh,?y ?b¿hóa,? 5

¿rl? ¿¡kó? r¿ça lwkm hy_? ¿h,¡? 6

?hkbl twlaçm ¿hkl ^tóy_ rça d[ w_¡? 7

t¿w_ç[l µwlç yka,l,m, ló? 8

µ¿[ µya?b¿h lw_?k 9

¿ twçrójó µhyn_zwa l?w¿k,w_? 10

¿,¡ h,?y¿h, rça ?µtwú?a 11

¿ló µóyçód,jw t,? 12

¿ µtómwq lw_k,? 13

¿l,wkómów_ ?hmtla?çw 14


1. [ ]son [

2. [ she rejoic]ed(?) in a son loved by hi[s fath]er above all[ his brothers(?)

3. [ he pr]ided [himself] on a dear son[

4. [ to] ask the Lord, that[ He g]i[ve her another(?) ]son[

5. [ the Lo]rd [love]d(?) Rachel highly[ ]to[show her mer]cy(?)[

6. [ ]her from all tha[t

7. [ ] until He gives you [the desires of your heart(?)

8. [ ] the angels of peace, to d[o

9. [ a]ll who[ c]ome wi[th

10. [ ]and a[l]l their ears are deaf [

11. [ t]hem(?), as it w[a]s [

12. [ ] renewed(?) ones [

13. [ ]all their existence(?) [

14. [ ]you [as]ked(?), and from all[


While the 'beloved/dear son' (lines 1, 2 and 3) in principle could be a biblical sage, a messianic figure, the people of Israel, or the individual elect, we identify this son as Joseph. The reference to Rachel in line 5 supports this identification. Further, we tentatively reconstruct line 2 as alluding to Gen 37:3 and 48:22, and line 4 as a rephrasing of Gen 30:24. There is thus reason to see 4Q474 as a parabiblical composition which included retelling of biblical narrative on Rachel and Joseph.

The last lines probably refer to the disobedience of Israel and possibly its future. 4Q474 might belong to a Joseph apocryphon containing foresayings of the end-time. Some passages from Genesis could have inspired the composition of such an apocryphon: Gen 50:24-25, Joseph's last words to his brothers; Gen 48:14-20, Jacob's blessing of the sons of Joseph; Gen 48:21-22, Jacob's promise to Joseph that he would bequath him an extra portion of land 'above his brothers', and that God would lead Jacob's descendants back to the promised land. The last promise could easily be reinterpreted eschatologically. Joseph's gifts of interpretation would make him an ideal model for an apocryphon or a testament, which conveys divine revelation to the descendants of the dying sage. We have previously suggested the latter option as a possibility. However, the lack of the first person form or references to the death of the sage make it less likely that the text could be part of a testament.


Lines 1-6 is a narrative in the 3rd person, on Jacob, Joseph and Rachel. Joseph is portrayed as his father's beloved son, and perhaps also as God's beloved. Already his mother was loved by God.

Line 7 is held in the 2nd person masc. sing. and refers to a promise of God's blessings (to Joseph?).

Lines 8-13 are in the 3rd person, referring to 'angels of peace' and the disobedience of the people. They will be deaf and not heed God's will.

Line 14 is held in the 2nd person plural, and refers perhaps to a request of the people. One option would be to see here a promise that God in the days to come will heed the request of the people and show mercy, as he heeded the request of Joseph in the past (line 7).


L. 2. We tentatively read ?wyja ¿l,w_k, l[,? ?wy¿b,?a¿ló bw_ha, ^bbó ?h,?jmç 'she rejoic]ed(?) in a son loved by his [fath]er above all[ his brothers(?)'. The text alludes to wynbAlkm ¼swyAta bha larçyw 'And Israel loved Joseph above all his other sons' (Gen 37:3) and Jacob's promise to Joseph šyjaAl[ dja µkç šl yttn ynaw 'I give you a piece of land more than your brothers' (Gen 48:22). According to our reconstruction Rachel is the subject of this line.

L. 3 d,y_d,y ^bbó jób,?tçh. The (reconstructed) verb is in the third person masculine. We suppose that Jacob is the subject. As Rachel rejoiced in the son (line 2), so Jacob prided himself of Joseph, his favorite son, dydy ^b. We propose to reconstruct a Hitpael form of jbç with the meaning 'he pr]ided [himself] on a de[ar] son', which would fit well in a paraphrase of Genesis 37: Jacob prided himself of his favourite son, and this caused his brothers' envy and anger.

L. 4 ?rja ¿^_bó? hl ^¿t,?y ¿ayk hwhy taó l?w¿a,çó?ló. hl ^¿t,?y or hl ¼¿s,?y. This line is reconstructed as a paraphrase of Rachel's request to God rja ^b yl hwhy ¼sy (Gen 30:24), cf. T. Benj. 1:4-5 'she prayed to the Lord, with fasting, and conceived and gave birth to me. My father loved Rachel exceedingly, and prayed that he might see two sons from her'. The subject of this sentence could be either Jacob or Rachel.

L. 5 ?hyl[ ¿µ?jr¿l,? ¿l,j,r hdwam hwú?hy ?b¿h,a,?. Cf. Gen 29:18, 30 ljrAta bq[y bhayw, halm ljrAta bhayw; and especially 30:22 hmjrAta jtpyw µyhla hyla [mçyw ljrAta µyhla rkzyw. We tentatively suggest to read and reconstruct hwú?hy ?b¿h,a,?, although the statement that God loved a woman would be unusual in a text paraphrasing the Bible. Alternatively another verb could be reconstructed before hwú?hy. This text interprets Gen 30:22 with the words 'God loved Rachel highly'. The reconstructed phrase hyl[ ¿µ?jr¿l,? would point to God giving Rachel a second son. The reconstructed text is close to Jub. 28:24 'the Lord showed mercy to Rachel and opened her womb' (when she got pregnant with Joseph), cf. further the words of Jer 31:20 about God's future mercy towards Ephraim, wnmjra µjr. 4Q474 could be dependant on Jubilees on this point, although Jubilees in general elevates Levi and Judah, and not Joseph, among the sons of Jacob. Rachel is more likely mentioned as Joseph's mother rather than the mother of Israel, for which cf. Jer 31:15-20. However, the mention of God's mercy toward Rachel could have a double meaning: as He pitied Rachel in the past and opened her womb, He will show mercy toward her descendants in the future.

L. 6 ¿rl? ¿¡kó? r¿ça lwkm hy_? ¿h,¡?. God has redeemed Rachel from her trials, probably referring to her barrenness. At the end of the line one could perhaps reconstruct lj¿rl.

L. 7 changes from the 3rd person to the 2nd: ?hkbl twlaçm ¿hkl ^tóy_ rça d[ 'until He gives you [the desires of your heart(?)'. For this tentative reconstruction, cf. Ps 37:4 hkbl twlaçm šlA^tyw. This line, probably addressed to Joseph, assured him of God's blessings. The Testament of Joseph repeatedly refers to God blessing Joseph.

L. 8 tw¿ç[l µwlç yka,?l¿m l,?. The text returns to the 3rd person form, and continues with the tasks of the angels of peace, possibly as the guardians of Joseph's descendants. One could reconstruct e.g.

wnwxr tw¿ç[l µwlç yka,?l¿m l,?wk jlçy 'He will send al]l the angels of peace, to d[o His will', or

tw¿ç[l µwlç yka,?l¿m l,?[ rça 'wha]t is upon the angels of peace to d[o'. The angels of Jacob's dream (Gen 28:12) could have inspired the idea of guarding angels in later parabiblical compositions. T. Dan 6:5 uses the designation 'angel of peace' for the chief angel who is Israel's guardian and intercessor. Similarly 4Q369 (4QPrayer of Enosh) 1 ii 9 connects the 'angel of peace' with God's presence in Israel,

wtd[b hkmwlç šalmw.

'Angels of peace' could also be connected with eschatological expectations: 4Q228 (4QText with a Citation of Jubilees) 1 i 8 mentions wmwlç šalm connected to the eschatological bliss of the righteous (cf. line 9 jxn y_?yj, line 10 w_k,lyú ml,?w[ rwab). Isa 33:7 refers to peace negotiators as µwlç ykalm. Second century interpreters could have connected the µwlç ykalm of this verse with the eschatological renewal promised in the preceding verse). µwlç ykalm are also mentioned in two minor fragments; 3Q8 1 2, 4Q428 (4QHodb) 17 3.

L. 9 µ¿[ µya?b¿h lw_?k. The 3rd person plural refers to the people or a group within it. This line could describe the repentant or renewed people returning to God, for which cf. i.a. Jer 3:12-25.

L. 10 twçrójó µhyn_zwa l?w¿k,w_?. This line could contain a negative statement about the people, for which cf. Isa 6:10 [mçy wynzabw wyny[b haryA^p [çh wyny[w dbkh wynzaw (with par. Zech 7:11). One could also reconstruct an eschatological promise like w[mçyw/jnjtptw¿ twçrójó µhyn_zwa l?w¿k,w_? 'their ears are deaf, but they will be opened/but they will hear', for which cf. the eschatological promises in Isa 35:5 jnjtpt µyçrj ynzaw; 29:18 µyçrjh awhhAµwyb w[mçw; 42:13 w[mç µyçrjh.

L. 14 The text changes from the 3rd to the 2nd person plural, addressing Joseph's descendants or the people; ¿l,wkómów_ hmtla?çw. If hmtla?çw is correctly reconstructed, this word would refer to a request of the people (cf. T. Jos. 19:4 'and there they cried out to the Lord'), and the continuation to God's answer. A possible continuation could be µkta ~bqy twxrah ¿l,wkómów_ 'and He will gather you ]from all[ the lands', for which cf. T. Judah 23:5; T. Iss. 6:4; T. Zeb. 9:7; T. Dan 5:9; T. Naph. 4:3; T. Asher 7:7; T. Jos. 20:1 'God will work vengeance on your behalf, and will lead you into the promises made to your fathers'; and further Jer 31:16-17 µlwbgl µynb wbçw . . . bywa ~ram wbçw.


4Q474 preserves remnants of a parabiblical composition. The extant passage preserves narrative material on Rachel and Joseph. It deals with God's promises to Joseph and with the disobedience of the people Israel. The composition could have contained apocryphal material in the form of foresayings by Joseph to his descendants of Israel's future history of disobedience and salvation (cf. the address in the 2nd person plur. in line 14). The contents of the other parts of the composition or length of the scroll is unknown. The scroll could have contained a lengthy retelling of biblical narrative like Jubilees, or only a shorter apocryphon.

The preserved text does not show parallels with the fragmentary Aramaic Apocryphon (or Testament) of Joseph (4Q539). Differences in language and contents indicate that 4Q474 and 4Q539 represent independent textual traditions. Neither are there clear parallels with 4Q371/372, which i.a. preserves narrative and poetic material connected with Joseph. The third century Aramaic Levi 82-94 (4Q213 6 i-ii; 4Q214 6 ii; Cambridge-Geniza ms e) refers to Joseph as a prototype of the sage. K. Beyer has proposed that 4Q539 was known both by Aramaic Levi and the later author of T. 12 Patr. The textual material hardly justifies such a conclusion. We prefer to see 4Q371/372, 4Q539; 4Q474, and Aramaic Levi 82-91 as different witnesses of early post-biblical traditions about Joseph.

The orthography suggests that this copy of 4Q474 was copied within the 'Qumran scribal school'. However, it was probably not authored within the yah>ad. The tetragrammaton is used twice (lines 4 and 5), which would be unusual in a sectarian text. The mention of Rachel indicates that all Israel is in the scopus, not only the elect ecclesía. One could also ask whether the figure of Joseph would be attractive for a sectarian writer, as Ephraim and Manasse are used as designations for adverseries of the yah>ad [4Q169 (4QpNah) 1:11-12; 3:5-9; 4:1-6; 4Q252 (4QpPsa) 1-10 ii 15-18]. It is thus reason to see 4Q474 as one of the parabiblical texts which were written outside the yah>ad or before its emergence, but nevertheless were preserved by this community.

The early Herodian script provides a terminus ante quem for the composition of 4Q474. Time of authorship should be set to the first or second century BCE, with the second century as the more probable option (especially if 4Q474 is a presectarian composition).