The Book of Jasher
Twice mentioned in the Old Testament, this book has not survived; nothing more is known about it than can be inferred from these two references. "Jasher" means just, upright, straight. The Vulgate calls it the "book of the just ones" and the LXX the "book of the upright one". There is just a possibility that the name is derived from a Hebrew word implying that it is a book of songs. The Syriac calls it the "book of praises". Less likely, perhaps, is that Jasher was the name of its author.
Joshua 10.13, after recounting the story of the sun "standing still" until the people had defeated their enemies, says "Is not this written in the book of Jasher?" It has been pointed out by scholars that Joshua's words in v.12 and the first sentence in v.13 are poetry whereas the rest of the chapter is prose, and that this points to these words being a direct quotation from the book of Jasher.
"Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon.
And thou, moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
And the sun stood still,
And the moon stayed,
Until the people had avenged themselves
upon their enemies."
The other reference, in 2 Samuel 1.18, relates to David's lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, a poetic composition covering vv 19-27 of that chapter, and one of the most eloquent passages of the Old Testament. This, it is said in v.18, "is written in the book of Jasher". On the basis of these examples it is thought that the lost book was a collection of poems or songs. It deals with the stirring deeds of Israel's ancient heroes, and other similar songs preserved in the O.T., such as Miriam's song of triumph following the Red Sea crossing (Ex.15) and that of Deborah after the defeat of Sisera (Judges 5), had the same origin.
The book was probably written in the time of David or Solomon, since the reference in 2 Sam. dates it to David's time at the earliest. The reference in Joshua would then be an editorial insertion supplementary to the original narrative, added in the days of David or later.
Several editions of a book claiming to be the lost book of Jasher appeared between 1827 and 1840 but these all stemmed back to one published at Bristol in 1751 which was almost immediately shown to be a forgery. In fact the book has never been discovered. It is sometimes said that Josephus declared (Ant. 5. 1. 17) that a copy was held in the Temple archives of his day but reference to the place shows that he did not mention Jasher and probably referred to the Book of Joshua itself.
[Editorial Note: This reprint from 1986 is inserted for its interest and explanation. It should be noted that the references to Exodus, Joshua and 1 Samuel could very well have been the source of the poems from which the editor of Jasher took some of his poems, the reverse of the suggestion above.]