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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
Jasher Book of
Ja´sher, book of, a work no longer extant, but cited in , and . In the former it is thus introduced: 'And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day,' etc. And in the passage referred to in 2 Samuel 1, it stands thus: . 'And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son:' . '(Also he bade them teach the children of Judah [the use of] the bow: behold it is written in the book of Jasher).' After which follows the lamentation of David. As the word Jasher signifies just or upright, by which word it is rendered in the margin of our Bibles, this book has been generally considered to have been so entitled as containing a history of just men. Bishop Lowth, however, conceives, from the poetical character of the two passages cited from it, that it was most probably a collection of national songs written at various times, and that it derived its name from jashar, 'he sang.' It is, at the same time, by no means an improbable conjecture, that the book was so called from the name of its author. Josephus speaks of the book of Jasher as one of the 'books laid up in the temple.'
The chief interest connected with the Scriptural book of Jasher arises from the circumstance that it is referred to as the authority for the standing still of the sun and moon. There are few passages in Biblical literature the explanation of which has more exercised the skill of commentators than this celebrated one. We shall here give a brief account of the most generally received interpretations.
The first is that which maintains that the account of the miracle is to be literally understood. According to this interpretation, which is the most ancient, the sun itself, which was then believed to have revolved round the earth, stayed his course for a day. Those who take this view argue that the theory of the diurnal motion of the earth, which has been the generally received one since the time of Galileo and Copernicus, is inconsistent with the Scripture narrative. Notwithstanding the general reception of the Copernican system of the universe, this view continued to be held by many divines, Protestant as well as Roman Catholic, and was strenuously maintained by Buddeus and others in the last century.
But in more recent times the miracle has been explained so as to make it accord with the now received opinion respecting the earth's motion, and the Scripture narrative supposed to contain rather an optical and popular, than a literal account of what took place on this occasion. So that it was in reality the earth, and not the sun, which stood still at the command of Joshua.
Another opinion is that first suggested by Spinoza, and afterwards maintained by Le Clerc, that the miracle was produced by refraction only, causing the sun to appear above the horizon after its setting, or by some other atmospherical phenomena, which produced sufficient light to enable Joshua to pursue and discomfit his enemies.
The last opinion we shall mention is that of the learned Jew Maimonides, viz. that Joshua only asked of the Almighty to grant that he might defeat his enemies before the going down of the sun, and that God heard his prayer, inasmuch as before the close of day the five kings with their armies were cut in pieces. Grotius, while he admitted that there was no difficulty in the Almighty's arresting the course of the sun, or making it reappear by refraction, approved of the explanation of Maimonides, which has been since that period adopted by many divines.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Jasher Book of'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/j/jasher-book-of.html.