Gospel Doctrine Class lesson #11 – How Can I Do This Great Wickedness?
Much of the story line for this lesson is rather straight forward, so for this lesson, I thought I’d add interesting information as background and highlights of the sons of Israel, the 12 Patriarchs (see The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (R. H. Charles) - R. H. Charles' translation). Traditionally, each of them wrote his own testimony of important events in his life. These will shed some light into today’s lesson.
Testament of Reuben
Reuben’s testament is given on his deathbed, a couple years after Joseph has died. Reuben is 125 years old, and gathers his brothers and children around him. He discusses the evils of fornication, as he was found guilty of sleeping with his step-mother. Not only did he lose the right of First-Born to his younger brother Joseph (Reuben was Leah’s first born, Joseph was Rachel’s first born), but he was plagued for his sins:
“And behold I call to witness against you this day the God of heaven, that ye walk not in the sins of 7 youth and fornication, wherein I was poured out, and defiled the bed of my father Jacob. And I tell you that he smote me with a sore plague in my loins for seven months; and had not my father Jacob prayed for me to the Lord, the Lord would have destroyed me. For I was thirty years old when I wrought the evil thing before the Lord, and for seven months I was sick unto death. And after this I repented with set purpose of my soul for seven years before the Lord. And wine and strong drink I drank not, and flesh entered not into my mouth, and I eat no pleasant food; but I mourned over my sin, for it was great, such as had not been in Israel” (1:1-10)
Reuben explained that every youth was given 7 “spirits of deceit”. These are in addition to the 7 spirits given at birth (life, sight, hearing, smell, speech, taste, power of procreation). This last is given in youth, “because it is filled with ignorance, and leadeth the youth as a blind man to a pit….” (ch 2:1-9). The 7 deceitful spirits include: fornication “seated in the nature and in the senses”, insatiableness “in the belly”, fighting “in the liver and gall”. The fourth deceitful spirit is obsequiousness and chicanery. Fifth is “pride, that one may be boastful and arrogant.” Sixth, Reuben tells us is the “spirit of lying, in perdition and jealousy to practice deceits.” Finally is the “spirit of injustice, with which are thefts and acts of rapacity, that a man may fulfill the desire of his heart.” Along with these come the spirits of sleep (including death) and error and fantasy. “And so perisheth every young man, darkening his mind from the truth…” (ch 3).
Reuben explains that while Jacob was gone visiting Isaac, Bilhah had become drunk and laid naked on her bed. He saw her and went in unto her while she was passed out. But an angel tells Jacob what has occurred, and Jacob never goes in to Bilhah again, as Reuben has defiled her. And Jacob mourned over Reuben.
Reuben tells them to not focus on women’s beauty, but to have a heart single to the Lord, “expend labour on good works, and on study and on your flocks, until the Lord give you a wife.”
He notes that Jacob has been merciful to him and prayed much for him, even while he could never look his father in the face. Then he compares himself to his younger brother, Joseph: “For ye heard regarding Joseph how he guarded himself from a woman, and purged his thoughts from all fornication, and found favour in the sight of God and men. For the Egyptian woman did many things unto him, and summoned magicians, and offered him love potions, but the purpose of his soul admitted no evil desire. Therefore the God of your fathers delivered him from every evil (and) hidden death. For if fornication overcomes not your mind, neither can Beliar overcome you” (ch 4).
Reuben warns of wicked women and tells his sons, “Flee, therefore, fornication, my children, and command your wives and your daughters, that they adorn not their heads and faces to deceive the mind: because every woman who useth these wiles hath been reserved for eternal punishment” (ch 6).
If we focus on what is important, then the temptations and machinations of Beliar (Satan) and men will not overcome us.
Interestingly, Reuben regards himself and some of his brothers in special leadership roles: “For to Levi God gave the sovereignty [and to Judah with him and to me also, and to Dan and Joseph, that we should be for rulers]. Therefore I command you to hearken to Levi, because he shall know the law of the Lord, and shall give ordinances for judgement and shall sacrifice for all Israel until the consummation of the times, as the anointed High Priest, of whom the Lord spake, I adjure you by the God of heaven to do truth each one unto his neighbour and to entertain love each one for his brother. And draw ye near to Levi in humbleness of heart, that ye may receive a blessing from his mouth. For he shall bless Israel and Judah, because him hath the Lord chosen to be king over the entire nation. And bow down before his seed, for on our behalf it will die in wars visible and invisible, and will be among you an eternal king” (ch 6).
Here, Reuben notes that he, Levi, Judah, Dan and Joseph are the key rulers. With this, he sees that Levi has a special role as the High Priest. This is evidence that the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs were probably written after the time of Moses, when the sons of Levi were ordained to the Levitical Priesthood and given the spiritual rule over the people.
The Testament of Simeon
On his deathbed, Simeon told his brothers and children that he was a very strong man. “I shrank from no achievement, nor was I afraid of ought. For my heart was hard, and my liver was immovable, and my bowels without compassion” (ch 2). Simeon admits to being very jealous of his brother Joseph, because Jacob love him most. Simeon sought to destroy Joseph, “because the prince of deceit sent forth the spirit of jealousy and blinded my mind, so that I regarded him not as a brother, nor did I spare even Jacob my father.” Fortunately, God’s angel delivered Joseph out of Simeon’s hands. After casting Joseph in the pit, Judah sold him to the Ishmaelites. Simeon was angry for five months with Judah that Joseph lived. Simeon was restrained from violence, because God caused his right hand to wither for a week. Simeon knew this was because of Joseph, “and I repented and wept, and I besought the Lord God that my hand might be restored, and that I might hold aloof from all pollution and envy 14 and from all folly. For I knew that I had devised an evil thing before the Lord and Jacob my father, on account of Joseph my brother, in that I envied him” (ch 2).
Simeon teaches that the spirit of envy is dangerous. As long as the one who is envied does well, the person who envies is miserable and diminished. “If a man flee to the Lord, the evil spirit runneth away from him, and his mind is lightened” (ch 3).
Simeon suffered more than his other brothers for selling Joseph. When the 10 patriarchs went down to Egypt to obtain food, Simeon was bound until Benjamin could be brought back. Simeon knew this was God’s punishment for his sin.
Simeon tells his children to emulate Joseph and admire how he handled all things. “Now Joseph was a good man, and had the Spirit of God within him: being compassionate and pitiful, he bore no malice against me; but loved me even as the rest of his 5 brethren. Beware, therefore, my children, of all jealousy and envy, and walk in singleness of soul and with good heart, keeping in mind Joseph your father's brother, that God may give you also grace and glory, and blessing upon your heads, even as ye saw in 6 Joseph's case. All his days he reproached us not concerning this thing, but loved us as his own 7 soul, and beyond his own sons glorified us, and gave us riches, and cattle and fruits. Do ye also, my children, love each one his brother with a good heart and the spirit of envy will withdraw from 8 you. For this maketh savage the soul and destroyeth the body; it causeth anger and war in the mind, and stirreth up unto deeds of blood, and leadeth the mind into frenzy, and suffereth not prudence to act in men; moreover, it taketh away sleep, [and causeth tumult to the soul and trembling to the body]” (ch 4).
Simeon warns of fornication as a major sin. He then states, “For I have seen it inscribed in the writing of Enoch that your sons shall be corrupted in fornication, and shall do harm to the sons of Levi with the sword. But they shall not be able to withstand Levi; for he shall wage the war of the Lord, and shall conquer all your hosts. And they shall be few in number, divided in Levi and Judah, and there shall be none of you for sovereignty, even as also our father prophesied in his blessings” (ch 5). Interestingly, here we see that Simeon has access to the writings of Enoch (which were very popular in the first and second centuries BC). We also see that descendants of Levi and Judah are noted as future spiritual and physical rulers: “And now, my children, obey Levi and Judah, and be not lifted up against these two tribes, for from them shall arise unto you the salvation of God. For the Lord shall raise up from Levi as it were a High-priest, and from Judah as it were a King [God and man], He shall save all [the Gentiles and] the race of Israel” (ch 7). Here we have a Messianic prophesy foreseeing the salvation of Jews and Gentiles.
The Testament of Levi
Levi has a special dream/vision that he shares with his sons before his death. A deep sleep fell upon him. It is revealed to him the wickedness of mankind, about the time his sister Dinah was raped. In a vision, he is placed upon a high mountain. From there, an angelic guide steps him through the various levels of heaven. Each heaven is more brilliant than the one before. The angel tells him, “Thou shalt stand near the Lord, and shalt be his minister, and shalt declare his mysteries to men…and by thee and Judah shall the Lord appear among men, saving every race of men. (ch 2). There are three levels of heaven shown to Levi. The first, or lowest level is where the unrighteous are. The second holds the “hosts of the armies” who will work vengeance on the “spirits of deceit and of Beliar And above them are the holy ones.” Above all of this in the highest heaven is God and the archangels. More heavens above, below and to the sides are described.
Levi sees the gates of heaven opened, sees the holy temple within, and “upon a throne of glory the Most High (El Elyon/Elohim). As with Abraham and Jacob, Levi ascends through the heavens to see God on his throne.
Afterward, the angel brought him back down, giving Levi a sword and demanding vengeance on Hamor’s family and on the town of Shechem, because his sister Dinah has been raped. After destroying Shechem, Levi asks the angel his name. Remember from previous lessons, the name is powerful and sacred. The angel introduces himself as the “angel who intercedeth for the nation of Israel” or the Angel of God’s Presence, the Messiah. “After these things I awaked, and blessed the Most High, and the angel who intercedeth for the nation of Israel and for all the righteous” (ch 5).
Upon awaking, he went with Simeon and slew the city of Shechem and the family of Hamor, as God commanded him in the dream. Jacob is not angry that the people have been slain, but that they were first circumcised and then slain. However, Levi knew that the people of Shechem previously sought to rape Sarah and Rebeccah, but were prevented by God. They had become full of wickedness, even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and they were ripe for destruction.
After several days, Levi received another vision. Seven men in white raiment told him to “put on the robe of the priesthood, and the crown of righteousness, and the breastplate of understanding, and the garment of truth, and the plate of faith, and the turban of the head, and the ephod of prophecy. And they severally carried (these things) and put (them,) on me, and said unto me: From henceforth become a priest of the Lord, thou and thy seed forever. And the first anointed me with holy oil, and gave to me the staff of judgment. The second washed me with pure water, and fed me with bread and wine (even) the most holy things, and clad me with a holy and glorious robe. The third clothed me with a linen vestment like an ephod. The fourth put round me a girdle like unto purple. The fifth gave me a branch of rich olive. The sixth placed a crown on my head. The seventh placed on my head a diadem of priesthood, and filled my hands with incense, that I might serve as priest to the Lord God. And they said to me: Levi, thy seed shall be divided into three offices, for a sign of the glory of the Lord who is to come. And the first portion shall be great; yea, greater than it shall none be. The second shall be in the priesthood. And the third shall be called by a new name, because a king shall arise in Judah, and shall establish a new priesthood, after the fashion of the Gentiles [to all the Gentiles]. And His presence is beloved, as a prophet of the Most High, of the seed of Abraham our father” (ch 8).
Here we see that Levi is ordained and set apart as a priest, anointed, washed, and clothed in priest clothes. He then is told that the priesthood would continue, including a special form of priesthood that would go out from a king in Judah, the Messiah, to the Gentiles.
Levi visited Isaac with his father, Israel. Isaac trained Levi in being a priest. Levi gives his basic history to his children, and warns them to not marry evil women nor fornicate, but to focus on the Lord and his law. He foresees that a temple will be built, but will later be made unclean by the wickedness of the Levitical priests, and laid waste. All of Israel will be destroyed or carried off for decades. “And after their punishment shall have come from the Lord, the priesthood shall fail. 2 Then shall the Lord raise up a new priest. And to him all the words of the Lord shall be revealed; And he shall execute a righteous judgement upon the earth for a multitude of days. 3 And his star shall arise in heaven as of a king. Lighting up the light of knowledge as the sun the day, And he shall be magnified in the world. 4 He shall shine forth as the sun on the earth, And shall remove all darkness from under heaven, And there shall be peace in all the earth” (ch 18).
Here we see Levi foreseeing the coming forth of a new priest, even the Jesus the Messiah, who would heal the earth. He continues to express the blessings and wonders brought upon the earth. “The angels of the glory of the presence of the Lord shall be glad in him. The heavens shall be opened, and From the temple of glory shall come upon him sanctification, With the Father's voice as from Abraham to Isaac. And the glory of the Most High shall be uttered over him.… And he shall open the gates of paradise, And shall remove the threatening sword against Adam. And he shall give to the saints to eat from the tree of life, And the spirit of holiness shall be on them. And Beliar shall be bound by him, And he shall give power to His children to tread upon the evil spirits. And the Lord shall rejoice in His children, And be well pleased in His beloved ones for ever. Then shall Abraham and Isaac and Jacob exult, And I will be glad, And all the saints shall clothe themselves with joy.” (ch 18).
Testament of Judah
Judah tells his children that as a youth he was swift to be obedient to Jacob, his father. Jacob told him that he would one day be a king. He was a skilled hunter, able to overtake hinds, roes, and a wild mare. He slew a lion to rescue a lamb from its mouth, killed a leopard, and hurled a bear down a cliff.
Judah was also a warrior. Not only did he slay wild beasts, but he fought Canaanite kings with their armies. He slew several kings, including the King of Hazor. He tells how he and his brothers pursued a thousand men, slaying two hundred of them, and then capturing and plundering the city of Hazor. The wars and victories continue, as Judah describes many of them. As with his descendant David, the Canaanites and others feared Judah and his brethren.
Judah’s son marries Tamar, who is not a Canaanite. However, Er was wicked, as was one of his brothers, and each is slain by God as they marry Tamar. Neither wished to have children, and so God slew them for disobeying the command given to Adam and Noah to multiply and replenish the earth. He explains how his youngest was not given to Tamar, because his wife did not permit it, having a feud with Tamar. Judah’s wife was a Canaanite and hated them, making her son marry a Canaanite woman. Soon after, she died because of her wickedness. He explains how he goes into see Tamar, who has disguised herself as a harlot. Afterward, Judah and his brethren went up to Egypt, to Joseph, because of the famine, and so he lost track of Tamar.
Judah explains to his children his mistakes in glorying in war, in fornication, and being drunk. “For the spirit of fornication hath wine as a minister to give pleasure to the mind” (ch 14). Because of the love of money and lust, Judah was led astray to his Canaanite wife in the first place, as she was the daughter of a Canaanite king. He explains that the love of money leads to idolatry, “because, when led astray through money, men name as gods those who are not gods, and it causeth him who hath it to fall into madness For the sake of money I lost my children, and had not my repentance, and my humiliation, and the prayers of my father been accepted, I should have died childless” (ch 19).
He warns them of sin, witchcraft, idolatry and fornication. If they sin, they will be punished by God, being led captive by the Gentiles. “And after these things shall a star arise to you from Jacob in peace, And a man shall arise [from my seed], like the sun of righteousness, walking with the sons of men in meekness and righteousness; And no sin shall be found in him. 2 and the heavens shall be open unto him, To pour out the spirit, (even) the blessing of the Holy Father” (ch 24).
He then describes each of the sons of Israel as a symbol of something holy: “the Lord blessed Levi, and the Angel of the Presence, me; the powers of glory, Simeon; the heaven, Reuben; the earth, Issachar; the sea, Zebulun; the mountains, Joseph; the tabernacle, Benjamin; the luminaries, Dan; Eden, Naphtali; the sun, Gad; the moon, Asher” (ch 25). Here, Levi symbolizes God. Judah represents the Angel of the Presence, who is the Messiah Jehovah/Jesus Christ. Joseph represents the mountains, which always symbolize the gateway to heaven (see Levi’s vision above). God is Priesthood power represented by Levi. The Messiah comes through the loins of Judah. And through Joseph, we find the gateway to heaven.
The Testament of Issachar
Issachar explains the issues regarding his birth to Leah. Reuben had found mandrake apples. The superstition of the day was that these apples made a woman fertile. Rachel took them from Reuben in exchange for letting Leah have an evening with Jacob. From that event comes Issachar.
An angel tells Jacob that Rachel shall have two children (because there are two mandrakes. Because Rachel took the mandrakes, Leah will only bear six sons instead of eight. Since Rachel was interested in having children, and not just being with Jacob for pleasure, the Lord had heard her plea.
Issachar grew up righteously. He was a husbandman/farmer for his family. Issachar was not a lustful man, but a hard worker, paying tithes both to the Lord and to his father, Jacob of the first fruits of his fields.
He counsels, “hearken to me, my children, And walk in singleness of your heart, For I have seen in it all that is well-pleasing to the Lord. The single-(minded) man coveteth not gold, He overreacheth not his neighbour, He longeth not after manifold dainties, He delighteth not in varied apparel. He doth not desire to live a long life, But only waiteth for the will of God” (ch 4). He continues encouraging them to serve God. While God blessed him with the blessings of the earth, “Levi and Judah were glorified by the Lord even among the sons of Jacob; for the Lord gave them an inheritance, and to Levi He gave the priesthood, and to Judah the kingdom” (ch 5).
He ends his testament by saying, “Behold, therefore, as ye see, I am a hundred and twenty-six years old and am not conscious of committing any sin. Except my wife I have not known any woman. I never committed fornication by the uplifting of my eyes. I drank not wine, to be led astray thereby; I coveted not any desirable thing that was my neighbour's. Guile arose not in my heart; A lie passed not through my lips. If any man were in distress I joined my sighs with his, And I shared my bread with the poor. I wrought godliness, all my days I kept truth I loved the Lord; Likewise also every man with all my heart. So do you also these things, my children” (ch 7)
The Testament of Zebulun
Zebulun explains that he has been righteous throughout his life, except as a young man sinning against Joseph by agreeing to keep the secret of the older brothers quiet. “But I wept in secret many days on account of Joseph, for I feared my brethren, because they had all agreed that if any one should declare the secret, he should be slain” (ch 1). Yes, according to Zebulun, the patriarchs had entered into a secret combination to get rid of their younger brother, of whom they were jealous. Simeon and Gad wanted Joseph dead, but after Zebulun cried for them to spare Joseph’s life, Reuben suggested they sell him to the Ishmaelites.
Zebulun insists that of the money received of the Ishmaelites, “For in his price I had no share, my children. But Simeon and Gad and six other of our brethren took the price of Joseph, and bought sandals for themselves, and their wives, and their children, saying: We will not eat of it, for it is the price of our brother's blood, but we will assuredly tread it under foot, because he said that he would be king over us, and so let us see what will become of his dreams” (ch 3). Reuben’s intent was just to keep Joseph safe until he could deliver him back to Jacob. However, he had to leave for a time. Zebulun watched the pit to ensure no one harmed Joseph. And while Reuben was away, the others sold Joseph. Reuben rent his garment, knowing this would cause Jacob to suffer. Reuben already could not look his father in the face because of his own fornication, now he had another sin to carry. It is Dan’s idea to lie to Jacob by slaying a goat and using its blood to represent Joseph killed by a wild animal.
Because of his brothers’ sin, many of their children were sickly. However Zebulun prospered. He built a boat and was able to catch fish, while others went hungry. They ate while going down to Egypt.
He warns his children of sin, and that the day would come when Israel would be divided, ruled by two wicked kings. The day would come when Israel would finally repent and be blessed when the “Lord Himself” would arise (ch 9).
The Testament of Dan
Dan witnesses to his weaknesses. He teaches his children, “just dealing is good and well pleasing to God, and that lying and anger are evil, because they teach man all wickedness. I confess, therefore, this day to you, my children, that in my heart I resolved on the death of Joseph my brother, the true and good man. [And I rejoiced that he was sold, because his father loved him more than us.] For the spirit of jealousy and vainglory said to me: Thou thyself also art his son. And one of the spirits of Beliar stirred me up, saying: Take this sword, and with it slay Joseph: so shall thy father love thee when he is dead” (ch 1).
Only God’s protection kept Joseph alive. Dan explains that the “spirit of lying and of anger” destroys, and one is only saved through loving truth and being longsuffering. “Draw near unto God and unto the angel that intercedeth for you, for he is a mediator between God and man, and for the 3 peace of Israel he shall stand up against the kingdom of the enemy” (ch 6). We are told to draw unto God/Elohim. The angel is the Angel of God’s Presence, the Messiah, even Jesus Christ.
The Testament of Naphtali
Naphtali explains that because he was born to Rachel through Bilhah, Rachel loved him very much. She wished to have her own child, just like Naphtali and got her wish.
He tells his children to be obedient, and to know their abilities and weaknesses. Everything has order and its personal tasks: “For God made all things good in their order, the five senses in the head, and He joined on the neck to the head, adding to it the hair also for comeliness and glory, then the heart for understanding, the belly for excrement, and the stomach for (grinding), the windpipe for taking in (the breath), the liver for wrath, the gall for bitterness, the spleen for laughter, the reins for prudence, the muscles of the loins for power, the lungs for drawing in, the loins for strength, and so forth. So then, my children, let all your works be done in order with good intent in the fear of God, and do nothing disorderly in scorn or out of its due season. For if thou bid the eye to hear, it cannot; so neither while ye are in darkness can ye do the works of light” ch 2). He encourages them not to corrupt who they are by doing things for the wrong reasons or because they are tempted.
“The Gentiles went astray, and forsook the Lord, and changed their order, and obeyed stocks and stones, spirits of deceit. But ye shall not be so, my children, recognizing in the firmament, in the earth, and in the sea, and in all created things, the Lord who made all things, that ye become not as Sodom, which changed the order of nature. In like manner the Watchers (of Enoch and Noah’s day) also changed the order of their nature, whom the Lord cursed at the flood, on whose account He made the earth without inhabitants and fruitless” (ch 3). He states he has read from Enoch’s writings, which prophesy of Israel and how they will depart from God, following the wicked ways of the Gentiles.
Napthali then describes a vision he has: “For in the fortieth year of my life, I saw a vision on the Mount of Olives, on the east of Jerusalem, that the sun and the moon were standing still. And behold Isaac, the father of my father, said to us; Run and lay hold of them, each one according to his strength; and to him that seizeth them will the sun and moon belong . And we all of us ran together, and Levi laid hold of the sun, and Judah outstripped the others and seized the moon, and they were both of them lifted up with them. And when Levi became as a sun, lo, a certain young man gave to him twelve branches of palm; and Judah was bright as the moon, and under their feet were twelve rays. [And the two, Levi and Judah, ran, and laid hold of them.] And , a bull upon the earth, with two great horns, and an eagle's wings upon its back; and we wished to seize him; but could not. But Joseph came, and seized him, and ascended up with him on high” (ch 5).
Napthali saw that Levi would grab the Sun by holding the priesthood of God, while representing God. Judah would grab the moon, representing the Angel of the Presence, or the Messiah. Joseph would do something entirely unexpected. The Bull represented Elohim anciently. It represented his strength and fertility. Joseph represented priesthood, but a different priesthood of Elohim than that given to Levi. Some would suggest that the eagle’s wings (compare to Revelation 12:14) represents the future United States where the children of Joseph would restore the gospel in the last days. That Joseph, Judah and Levi all represented God is suggestive of the two Gods that ancient Israel worshiped: Elohim (El Elyon – God Almighty), and Jehovah (Angel of El’s Presence). In previous lessons, we’ve discussed how El Elyon was the head God, with his divine sons. Jehovah was made king over Israel – the choicest group of people. Jehovah later overcomes the other gods who challenged him (see Job 1), and became God of the earth. With Levi leading the priesthood in the Middle East, why would Joseph also need a special role? To me, it makes sense only if we understand that Joseph’s seed is led off to another land, and takes priesthood with them.
Napthali later has another dream, where his family is on a boat, titled the “Ship of Jacob.” While on it, a storm arises and breaks the boat apart. All of the patriarchs were floating upon planks, and were scattered upon the earth. However, Joseph “fled away upon a little boat” (ch 6). Clearly, Joseph was set apart for a future reason, which fits in well with the restored gospel in the last days. In the Book of Mormon, we see that descendants of Joseph doing just that. Lehi was called to leave Jerusalem prior to its destruction. He and his family traveled in the wilderness for a long time, but left the Middle East on a boat that was designed and revealed by God to Nephi. They fled the Middle East to a new promised land in the Americas.
Napthali shared this dream with Jacob. “Then my father saith unto me: I believe God that Joseph liveth, for I see always that the Lord numbereth him with you” (ch 7). Napthali exhorts them to obedience, foreseeing that the Messiah will dwell among the children of Israel.
The Testament of Gad
Gad tells of being angry with Joseph. Joseph saw the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah eating sheep from the fold without first discussing it with Reuben, and so Joseph told Jacob. Jacob was angry with several of his sons for not protecting the flocks better. Gad explains that a lamb was mauled by a bear, which he killed, but it was on death’s door, so he killed it for food. Still, he was angry with Joseph until the day they sold him into slavery.
Because of Joseph’s dreams, Gad hated his brother even more, and wished to kill him. He explains that hatred blinds a man. A man can serve God in many things, but if he hates, he does not love God. Hatred goes with envy, making the person languish anytime his enemy prospers. “Hatred, therefore, is evil, for it constantly mateth with lying, speaking against the truth; and it maketh small things to be great, and causeth the light to be darkness, and calleth the sweet bitter, and teacheth slander, and kindleth wrath, and stirreth up war, and violence and all covetousness….drive forth hatred, which is of the devil, and cleave to the love of God. Righteousness casteth out hatred, humility destroyeth envy.” (ch 5).
In front of Jacob, he spoke kindly of Joseph, but went about plotting his death once he was out of his father’s presence. It consumed him. Only by repenting and loving was he able to change.
The Testament of Asher
Asher explains the dual nature of man: ”Two ways hath God given to the sons of men, and two inclinations, and two kinds of action, and two modes (of action), and two issues. Therefore all things are by twos, one over against the other. For there are two ways of good and evil, and with these are the two inclinations in our breasts discriminating them. Therefore if the soul take pleasure in the good (inclination), all its actions are in righteousness; and if it sin it straightway repenteth. For, having its thoughts set upon righteousness, and casting away wickedness, it straightway overthroweth the evil, and uprooteth the sin. But if it incline to the evil inclination, all its actions are in wickedness, and it driveth away the good, and cleaveth to the evil, and is ruled by Beliar; even though it work what is good, he perverteth it to evil. For whenever it beginneth to do good, he forceth the issue of the action into evil for him, seeing that the treasure of the inclination is filled with an evil spirit” (ch 1).
If we are righteous, we seek to do good. We repent when we err. The wicked seek evil works. If they do a good work, they always pervert it for evil ends. He explains that an evil man may love, but there is always intent that causes him to work it for evil.
He encourages his children to not be two-faced, but to seek good only, “for they that are double-faced serve not God, but their own lusts, so that they may please Beliar and men like unto themselves” (ch 3). Everything has duality, depending on whether it is used for righteousness or evil: “in wealth (is hidden) covetousness, in conviviality drunkenness, in laughter grief, in wedlock profligacy. Death succeedeth to life, dishonour to glory, night to day, and darkness to light; [and all things are under the day, just things under life, unjust things under death” (ch 5).
The Testament of Joseph
Joseph tells how God has always delivered him: “I have seen in my life envy and death, Yet I went not astray, but persevered in the truth of the Lord. These my brethren hated me, but the Lord loved me: They wished to slay me, but the God of my fathers guarded me: They let me down into a pit, and the Most High brought me up again. I was sold into slavery, and the Lord of all made me free: I was taken into captivity, and His strong hand succoured me. I was beset with hunger, and the Lord Himself nourished me. I was alone, and God comforted me: I was sick, and the Lord visited me: I was in prison, and my God showed favour unto me; In bonds, and He released me; Slandered, and He pleaded my cause; Bitterly spoken against by the Egyptians, and He delivered me; Envied by my fellow-slaves, and He exalted me” (ch 1).
He talks about his experience with Potiphar’s wife. She continually sought to entrap him and seduce him. She would threaten him, have him punished, and try to bribe him with riches and power. But he remembered his father Jacob’s teachings and refused. He often fasted and prayed for strength. If Potiphar was gone, he drank no wine and fasted for three days, giving his food to the poor and needy.
She wished for a male child, and so Joseph prayed and the Lord gave her a son. But this satisfied her for only a short while, and she was again seeking to seduce Joseph. She offered to leave worshiping the Egyptian gods with Potiphar and begin worshiping the Lord. However, Joseph explained that chastity was very important to God, and following Him must be done with full desire: “The Lord willeth not that those who reverence Him should be in uncleanness, nor doth He take pleasure in them that commit adultery, but in those that approach Him with a pure heart and undefiled lips” (ch 4).
The woman threatens to kill her husband Potiphar and take Joseph as her husband, “when I heard this, rent my garments, and said unto her: Woman, reverence God, and do not this evil deed, lest thou be destroyed; for know indeed that I will declare this thy device unto all men” (ch 5). In fear, she begs him to keep quiet and gives him many gifts.
She even tried potions and magic to overcome Joseph. “And afterwards she sent me food mingled with enchantments. And when the eunuch who brought it came, I looked up and beheld a terrible man giving me with the dish a sword, and I perceived that (her) scheme was to beguile me. And when he had gone out I wept, nor did I taste that or any other of her food” (ch 6). Next, she threatened to commit suicide if Joseph did not sleep with her. Joseph prays for her, and reminds her that Potiphar’s other wife will beat her children once she is dead.
Other times, she offered to set him free from bondage. Yet Joseph would not consent. He explains to his children, “Ye see, therefore, my children, how great things patience worketh, and prayer with fasting. So ye too, if ye follow after chastity and purity with patience and prayer, with fasting in humility of 3 heart, the Lord will dwell among you, because He loveth chastity. And wheresoever the Most High dwelleth, even though envy, or slavery, or slander befalleth (a man), the Lord who dwelleth in him, for the sake of his chastity not only delivereth him from evil, but also exalteth him even as me” (ch 10).
Joseph tells how when his brothers sold him into slavery, he refrained from telling the Ishmaelites that he was Jacob’s son, born free. Rather he told them he was a “home-born slave.” He did this to not put his brothers to shame. He explains how he was taken to Memphis (Egypt), and came to be in Potiphar’s home. And while he suffered much, he was eventually lifted up. Where he once served Egyptians, they now served him.
Joseph then describes a vision he had. “Hear ye, therefore, my vision which I saw. I saw twelve harts feeding. And nine of them were dispersed. Now the three were preserved, but on the following day they also were dispersed. And I saw that the three harts became three lambs, and they cried to the Lord, and He brought them forth into a flourishing and well watered place, yea He brought them out of darkness into light. And there they cried unto the Lord until there gathered together unto them the nine harts, and they became as twelve sheep, and after a little time they increased and became many flocks. And after these things I saw and behold, twelve bulls were sucking one cow, which produced a sea of milk, and there drank thereof the twelve flocks and innumerable herds. And the horns of the fourth bull went up unto heaven and became as a wall for the flocks, and in the midst of the two horns there grew another horn. And I saw a bull calf which surrounded them twelve times, and it became a help to the bulls wholly. And I saw in the midst of the horns a virgin [wearing a many-coloured garment, and from her] went forth a lamb; and on his right (was as it were a lion; and) all the beasts and all the reptiles rushed (against him), and the lamb over came them and destroyed them. And the bulls rejoiced because of him, and the cow [and the harts] exulted together with them. And these things must come to pass in their season. Do ye therefore, my children, observe the commandments of the Lord, and honour Levi and Judah; for from them shall arise unto you [the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world] one who saveth [all the Gentiles and] Israel. For His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, which shall not pass away; but my kingdom among you shall come to an end as a watcher's hammock, which after the summer disappeareth.”
In other words, he is describing Israel as 12 harts/sheep. The fourth bull is Judah (fourth son of Jacob), and he is to be the ancestor of the Lamb of God. Note, the virgin wears a “many-colored garment” even as Joseph once had. This garment potentially represents the priesthood garment that has been discussed in previous lessons. Adam’s garment was passed down through his children to Noah. Ham stole it and gave it to his children. Esau slays Nimrod and takes the garment. But while fleeing Nimrod’s soldiers, he trades it to Jacob for food. Jacob makes a special garment, possibly similar to this garment, for Joseph. This represents his righteousness, and being chosen of God as a prophet. Mary now is seen with such a garment, as she is pregnant with Christ, who also holds the Melchizedek Priesthood and is the fulfillment of all the symbolism of the past. He is Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph in their role as high priest and prophet of God (see Hebrews 4-7). Christ will overcome all things.
The Testament of Benjamin
Benjamin was born twelve years after Joseph. When Rachel died, he was suckled by Bilhah. When Benjamin was later taken to Egypt to speak with Joseph, Joseph sought to protect the honor of his older brothers by claiming he was violently taken by the Ishmaelites. Joseph also asked his brothers to tell Jacob the same story, to protect them. “Do ye also, therefore, my children, love the Lord God of heaven and earth, and keep His commandments, following the example of the good and holy man Joseph” (ch 3).
Benjamin states that when Joseph pled with Jacob to forgive his older brothers, Jacob responded, “In thee shall be fulfilled the prophecy of heaven [concerning the Lamb of God, and Saviour of the world], and that a blameless one shall be delivered up for lawless men, and a sinless one shall die for ungodly men [in the blood of the covenant. for the salvation of the Gentiles and of Israel, and shall destroy Beliar and his servants]” (ch 3). Here, Joseph is the perfect symbol for the coming Messiah. He has forgiven his enemies, and saved them all.
Benjamin continues his instruction. “See ye, therefore, my children, the end of the good man? Be followers of his compassion, therefore, with a good mind, that ye also may wear crowns of glory. For the good man hath not a dark eye; for he showeth mercy to all men, even though they be sinners. And though they devise with evil intent concerning him, by doing good he overcometh evil, being shielded by God: and he loveth the righteous as his own soul” (ch 4). The righteous man is guided by the angel of peace. He does not covet, but is satisfied with the Lord’s portion. He does not bless and curse, but seeks to bless all mankind.
He warns of evil, telling them to “flee the malice of Beliar; for he giveth a sword to them that obey him. And the sword is the mother of seven evils. First the mind conceiveth through Beliar, and first there is bloodshed; secondly ruin; thirdly, tribulation; fourthly, exile; fifthly, dearth; sixthly, panic; seventhly, destruction. Therefore was Cain also delivered over to seven vengeances by God, for in every hundred years the Lord brought one plague upon him. And when he was two hundred years old he began to suffer, and in the nine-hundredth year he was destroyed. For on account of Abel, his brother, with all the evils was he judged, but Lamech with seventy times seven. Because for ever those who are like Cain in envy and hatred of brethren, shall be punished with the same judgment” (ch 7).
He quotes the words of Enoch, who foresaw their evil deeds. He sees that they will become like Sodom, lost in their sexual sins. “Nevertheless the temple of God shall be in your portion, and the last (temple) shall be more glorious than the first. And the twelve tribes shall be gathered together there, and all the Gentiles, until the Most High shall send forth His salvation in the visitation of an only begotten prophet. [And He shall enter into the [first] temple, and there shall the Lord be treated with outrage, and He shall be lifted up upon a tree. And the veil of the temple shall be rent, and the Spirit of God shall pass on to the Gentiles as fire poured forth. And He shall ascend from Hades and shall pass from earth into heaven. And I know how lowly He shall be upon earth, and how glorious in heaven]” (ch 9).
Benjamin instructs his children to teach the gospel truths to their descendants. The gospel truth ties the generations together, and foresees the Messiah, the resurrection, and final judgment. “Keep the commandments of God, until the Lord shall reveal His salvation to all Gentiles. And then shall ye see Enoch, Noah, and Shem, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, rising on the right hand in gladness. Then shall we also rise, each one over our tribe, worshipping the King of heaven, [who appeared upon earth in the form of a man in humility. And as many as believe on Him on the earth shall rejoice with Him]. Then also all men shall rise, some unto glory and some unto shame” (ch 10).
With a few final words, Benjamin dies. “So Benjamin died a hundred and twenty-five years old, at a good old age, and they placed him in a coffin. And in the ninety-first year from the entrance of the children of Israel into Egypt, they and their brethren brought up the bones of their fathers secretly during the Canaanitish war; and they buried them in Hebron, by the feet of their fathers. And they returned from the land of Canaan and dwelt in Egypt until the day of their departure from the land of Egypt” (ch 12).
Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (translated by R. H. Charles): http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/patriarchs-charles.html