Asher - in Rabbinical Literature

In Rabbinical Literature

According to classical rabbinical literature, Asher had informed his brothers about Reuben's incest with Bilhah, and as a result Asher came to be on bad terms with his brothers, though once Reuben confessed, the brothers realised they had been unjust towards Asher; Asher's motivation is described, by classical rabbinical sources, as being entirely innocent of evil intent, and always in search of harmony between his brothers. He was the very one whose endeavor it had always been to reconcile the brothers, especially when they disputed as to who among them was destined to be the ancestor of the priests (Sifre, Deut. 355). In the Test. Patr., Asher, 5, Asher is regarded as the example of a virtuous man who with singlemindedness strives only for the general good.

Asher was born on the 20th of Shevat 2199 (1562 BCE). According to some accounts 20th of Shevat is also the date of his passing.

Asher married twice. His first wife was 'Adon, a great-granddaughter of Ishmael; his second, Hadurah, a granddaughter of Eber and a widow. By her first marriage Hadurah had a daughter Serah, whom Asher treated as affectionately as if she had been of his own flesh and blood, so that the Bible itself speaks of Serah as Asher's daughter ("Sefer ha-Yashar, Wayesheb"). According to the Book of Jubilees (xxxiv. 20), Asher's wife was named "Iyon" (probably, "dove").

Asher's descendants in more than one regard deserved their name ("Asher" meaning "happiness"). The tribe of Asher was the one most blessed with male children (Sifre, l.c.); and its women were so beautiful that priests and princes sought them in marriage (Gen. R. lxxi., end). The abundance of oil in the land possessed by Asher so enriched the tribe that none of them needed to hire a habitation (Gen. R. l.c.); and the soil was so fertile that in times of scarcity, and especially in the Sabbatical year, Asher provided all Israel with olive-oil (Sifre, l.c.; Men. 85b; Targ. Yer. on Deut. xxxiii. 24). The Asherites were also renowned for wisdom (Men. l.c.).J. Sr. L. G.

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