THE ASSUMPTION OF MOSES
Also known as
THE TESTAMENT OF MOSES
Translation adapted from R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old
(Oxford: University Press, 1913) 2: 407-424.
Chapters 6 & 7 are widely held to be a first century AD interpolation
(referring to the Herodian family)
into a second century BC document
(referring to events precipitated by the persecution of Jews by Antiochus IV Epiphanes).
Edited and adapted by George Lyons
© Copyright 2000
-Revised English by Jeremy Kapp 2008-
- The Testament of Moses, even the things which he commanded in the one hundred and
twentieth year of his life, that is the two thousand five hundredth year from the creation of
the world: [But according to oriental reckoning the two thousand and seven hundredth, and
the four hundredth after the departure from Phoenicia], when the people had gone out after
the Exodus that was made by Moses to Amman beyond the Jordan, in the prophecy that was
made by Moses in the book Deuteronomy: and he called to him Joshua the son of Nun, a man
approved of the Lord, that he might be the minister of the people and of the tabernacle of the
testimony with all its holy things, and that he might bring the people into the land given to
their fathers, that it should be given to them according to the covenant and the oath, which
He spoke in the tabernacle to give (it) by Joshua: saying to Joshua these words: ‘(Be strong)
and of a good courage so as to do with your might all that has been commanded that you may
be blameless to God.’
- So says the Lord of the world.
- For He has created the world on behalf of His people.
- But He was not pleased to present this purpose of creation from the
foundation of the world, in order that the Gentiles might thereby be convicted, yea to their
own humiliation might by (their) arguments convict one another.
- Accordingly He designed and devised me, and He prepared me before the foundation
of the world, that I should be the mediator of His covenant.
- And now I declare to you that the time of the years of my life is fulfilled and I am
passing away to sleep with my fathers
even in the presence of all the people And receive this writing that you may know how to
preserve the books which I shall deliver to you: and you shall set these in order and anoint
them with oil of cedar and put them away in earthen vessels in the place which He made from
the beginning of the creation of the world, that His name should be called upon until the
day of repentance in the visitation wherewith the Lord will visit them in the consummation
of the end of the days.
- And now they shall go by means of you into the land which He determined and promised to
give to their fathers, in the which you shall bless and give to them individually and confirm
to them their inheritance in me and establish for them the kingdom, and you shall appoint
them local magistrates according to the good pleasure of their Lord in judgment and
- And five years after they enter into the land, that thereafter they shall be ruled
by chiefs and kings for eighteen years, and during nineteen years the ten tribes shall break
- And the twelve tribes shall go down and transfer the tabernacle of the testimony.
- Then the God of heaven will make the court of His tabernacle and the tower of His
sanctuary, and the two holy tribes shall be (there) established: but the ten tribes shall
establish kingdoms for themselves according to their own ordinances.
- And they shall offer sacrifices throughout twenty years: and seven shall entrench
the walls, and I will protect nine, but four shall transgress the covenant of the Lord, and
profane the oath which the Lord made with them.
- And they shall sacrifice their sons to strange gods, and they shall set up idols in the
sanctuary, to worship them.
- And in the house of the Lord they shall work impiety and
engrave every form of beast, even many abominations.
- And in those days a king from the east shall come against them and his cavalry shall cover
- And he shall burn their colony with fire together with the holy temple of the Lord,
and he shall carry away all the holy vessels.
- And he shall cast out all the people, and he shall take them to the land of his
nativity, yea he shall take the two tribes with him.
- Then the two tribes shall call upon the ten tribes, and shall march as a lioness
on the dusty plains, being hungry and thirsty.
- And they shall cry aloud: ‘Righteous and holy is the Lord, for, inasmuch
as ye have sinned, we too, in like manner, have been carried away with you, together with
- Then the ten tribes shall mourn on hearing the reproaches of the two tribes, and
they shall say: ‘What have we done to you, brothers?
- Has not this tribulation come on all the house of Israel?’
- And all the tribes shall mourn, crying to heaven and saying: ‘God of
Abraham God of Isaac and God of Jacob, remember Your covenant which You made with
them, and the oath which You did swore to them by Yourself, that their seed should never fail
from the land which You hast given them.’
- Then they shall remember me, saying, in that day, tribe to tribe and each man to his
neighbor: ‘Is not this that which Moses did then declare to us in prophecies, who suffered
many things in Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness during forty years: and
assuredly called heaven and earth to witness against us, that we should not transgress His
commandments, in the which he was a mediator for us?
- Behold these things have happened to us after his death according to his declaration, as he
declared to us at that time, yes, behold these have taken place even to our being carried away
captive into the country of the east.’
- Who shall be also in bondage for about seventy and seven years.
- Then there shall enter one who is over them, and he shall spread out his hands, and kneel
upon his knees and pray on their behalf saying: ‘Lord of all, King on the lofty throne, who
rules the world, and did will that this people should be Your elect people, then (indeed) You
willed that You should be called their God, according to the covenant which You made with
- And yet they have gone in captivity in another land with their wives and their
children, and around the gates of strange peoples and where there is great vanity.
- Regard and have compassion on them, O Lord of heaven.’
- Then God will remember them because of the covenant, which He made with their fathers,
and He will present His compassion in those times also.
- And He will put it into the mind of a king to have compassion on them, and he
shall send them off to their land and country.
- Then some portions of the tribes shall go up and they shall come to their appointed
place, and they shall anew surround the place with walls.
- And the two tribes shall continue in their prescribed faith, sad and lamenting because
they will not be able to offer sacrifices to the Lord of their fathers.
- And the ten tribes shall increase and multiply among the Gentiles during the time of their captivity.
- And when the times of chastisement draw nigh and vengeance arises through the kings who
share in their guilt and punish them, they themselves also shall be divided as to the truth.
- For this reason, it has been said: ‘They shall turn aside from righteousness and approach iniquity,
and they shall defile with pollutions the house of their worship,’ and [because] ‘they shall
prostitute themselves with strange gods.’
- For they shall not follow the truth of God, but some shall pollute the altar with the
(very) gifts which they offer to the Lord, who are not priests but slaves, sons of slaves.
- And many in those times shall have respect for desirable persons and receive gifts,
and pervert judgment [on receiving presents].
- And on this account the colony and the borders of their habitation shall be filled with
lawless deeds and iniquities: those who wickedly depart from the Lord shall be judges: they shall
be ready to judge for money as each may wish.
- Then there shall be raised up to them kings bearing rule, and they shall call themselves
priests of the Most High God: they shall assuredly work iniquity in the holy of holies.
- And an insolent king shall succeed them, who will not be of the race of the priests,
a man bold and shameless, and he shall judge them as they shall deserve.
- And he shall cut off their chief men with the sword, and shall destroy them in secret
places, so that no one may know where their bodies are.
- He shall slay the old and the young, and he shall not spare.
- Then the fear of him shall be bitter to them in their land.
- And he shall execute judgments on them as the Egyptians executed upon them, during
thirty and four years, and he shall punish them.
- And he shall beget children, (who) succeeding him shall rule for shorter periods.
- Into their parts cohorts and a powerful king of the west shall come, who shall conquer
them: and he shall take them captive, and burn a part of their temple with fire, (and) shall
crucify some around their colony.
- And when this is done the times shall be ended, in a moment the (second) course shall be
(ended), the four hours shall come.
- They shall be forced. . . And, in the time of these, destructive and impious men shall rule,
saying that they are just.
- And these shall stir up the poison of their minds, being treacherous men, self-pleasers,
dissemblers in all their own affairs and lovers of banquets at every hour of the day. gluttons,
- Devourers of the goods of the (poor) saying that they do so on the ground of their
justice, but in reality to destroy them, complainers, deceitful, concealing themselves lest
they should be recognized, impious, filled with lawlessness and iniquity from sunrise to sunset:
saying: ‘We shall have feastings and luxury, eating and drinking, and we shall esteem ourselves
- And though their hands and their minds touch unclean things, yet their mouth shall speak great
things, and they shall say furthermore: ‘Do not touch me lest you should pollute me in the
place (where I stand’) . . .
- And there shall come upon them a second visitation and wrath, such as has not happened to
them from the beginning until that time, in which He will stir up against them the king of the
kings of the earth and one that rules with great power, who shall crucify those who confess to
their circumcision: and those who conceal (it) he shall torture and deliver them up to be
bound and led into prison.
- And their wives shall be given to the gods among the Gentiles, and their young sons shall
be operated on by the physicians in order to bring forward their foreskin.
- And others amongst them shall be punished by tortures and fire and sword, and they
shall be forced to bear in public their idols, polluted as they are like those who keep. them.
- And they shall likewise be forced by those who torture them to enter their inmost sanctuary,
and they shall be forced by goads to blaspheme with insolence the word, finally after these
things the laws and what they had above their altar.
- Then in that day there shall be a man of the tribe of Levi, whose name shall be Taxo, who
having seven sons shall speak to them exhorting (them): ‘Observe, my sons, behold a second
ruthless (and) unclean visitation has come upon the people, and a punishment merciless and
far exceeding the first.
- For what nation or what region or what people of those who are
impious towards the Lord, who have done many abominations, have suffered as great
calamities as have happened to us?
- Now, therefore, my sons, hear me: for observe and know that neither did the fathers
nor their forefathers tempt God, so as to transgress His commands.
- And you know that this is our strength, and thus we will do.
- Let us fast for the space of three days and on the fourth let us go into a cave which
is in the field, and let us die rather than transgress the commands of the Lord of Lords,
the God of our fathers.
- For if we do this and die, our blood shall be avenged before the Lord.
- And then His kingdom shall appear throughout all His creation, And then Satan shall be no
more, And sorrow shall depart with him.
- Then the hands of the angel shall be filled Who has been appointed chief, And he shall
immediately avenge them of their enemies.
- For the Heavenly One will arise from His royal throne, And He will go out from His holy
habitation With indignation and wrath because of His sons.
- And the earth shall tremble: to its confines shall it be shaken: And the high mountains
shall be made low And the hills shall be shaken and fall.
- And the horns of the sun shall be broken and he shall be turned into darkness; And
the moon shall not give her light, and be turned wholly into blood.
- And the circle of the stars shall be disturbed.
- And the sea shall retire into the abyss, And the fountains of waters shall
fail, And the rivers shall dry up.
- For the Most High will arise, the Eternal God alone, And He will appear to punish the
Gentiles, And He will destroy all their idols.
- Then you, O Israel, shall be happy, And you shall mount upon the necks and wings of
the eagle, And they shall be ended.
- And God will exalt you, And He will cause you to approach to the heaven of the
stars, In the place of their habitation.
- And you will look from on high and see your enemies in Gehenna) And you shall recognize
them and rejoice, And you shall give thanks and confess your Creator.
- And do you; Joshua (the son of) Nun, keep these words and this book; For from my death
[assumption] until His advent there shall be 250 times [= year-weeks = 1750 years].
- And this is the course of the times which they shall pursue till they are consummated.
- And I shall go to sleep with my fathers.
- For this reason, Joshua, (son of) Nun, (be strong and) be of good courage; (for) God has
chosen (you) to be minister in the same covenant.
- And when Joshua had heard the words of Moses that were so written in his writing all that
he had before said, he rent his clothes and cast himself at Moses’ feet.
- And Moses comforted him and wept with him.
- And Joshua answered him and said: ‘Why do you comfort me, (my) lord Moses ?
- And how shall I be comforted in regard to the bitter word which you hast spoken which
has gone out from your mouth, which is full of tears and lamentation, in that you depart from
- (But now) what place shall receive you?
- Or what shall be the sign that marks (your) sepulcher?
- Or who shall dare to move your body from there as that of a mere man from place to place?
- For all men when they die have according to their age their sepulchers on earth; but
your sepulcher is from the rising to the setting sun, and from the south to the confines of
the north: all the world is your sepulcher.
- My lord, you are departing, and who shall feed this people?
- Or who is there that shall have compassion on them and who shall be their guide by the way?
- Or who shall pray for them, not omitting a single day, in order that I may lead them into
the land of their forefathers?
- How therefore am I to foster this people as a father (his) only son, or as a mistress her
daughter, a virgin who is being prepared to be given to the husband whom she will revere, while
she guards her person from the sun and (takes care) that her feet are not unshod for running upon
- (And how) shall I supply them with food and drink according to the pleasure of their will?
- For of them, there shall be 600,000 (men), for these have multiplied to this degree through your
prayers, (my) lord Moses.
- And what wisdom or understanding have I that I should judge or answer by word in the house
(of the Lord)?
- And the kings of the Amorites also when they hear that we are attacking them, believing that
there is no longer among them the holy spirit who was worthy of the Lord, manifold and incomprehensible,
the lord of the word, who was faithful in all things, God’s chief prophet throughout the earth, the most
perfect teacher in the world, [that he is no longer among them], shall say “Let us go against them.
- If the enemy have but once wrought impiously against their Lord, they have no advocate to
offer prayers on their behalf to the Lord, like Moses the great messenger, who every hour day and night
had his knees fixed to the earth, praying and looking for help to Him that rules all the world with
compassion and righteousness, reminding Him of the covenant of the fathers and propitiating the Lord with
- For they shall say: “He is not with them: let us go therefore and destroy them from off the face of
- What shall then become of this people, my lord Moses?’
- And when Joshua had finished (these) words, he cast himself again at the feet of Moses.
- And Moses took his hand and raised him into the seat before him, and answered and said to
him: Joshua, do not despise yourself; but set your mind at ease, and hear my words.
- All the nations which are in the earth God has created and us, He has foreseen them and
us from the beginning of the creation of the earth to the end of the age, and nothing has been
neglected by Him even to the least thing, but all things He has foreseen and caused all to come out.
- (Yes) all things which are to be in this earth the Lord has foreseen and, look, they are brought
forward (into the light. . . . The Lord,) has on their behalf appointed me to (pray) for their sins and
(make intercession) for them.
- For not for any virtue or strength of mine, but of His good pleasure have His compassion and
longsuffering fallen to my lot.
- For I say to you, Joshua: it is not because of the godliness of this people that you shall root
out the nations.
- The lights of the heaven, the foundations of the earth have been made and approved by God
and are under the signet ring of His right hand.
- Those, therefore, who do and fulfill the commandments of God shall increase and be prospered: but
those who sin and set at naught the commandments shall be without the blessings before mentioned, and they
shall be punished with many torments by the nations.
- But wholly to root out and destroy them is not permitted.
- For God will go out, who has foreseen all things forever, and His covenant has been established and
by the oath which…