The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament/Eldad and Medad

Eldad and Medad

Eldad and Medad (Modat) was a short book of 400 lines, longer than Ephesians (312), shorter than 2 Corinthians (590). Of it we have one certain fragment. Hermas, who in the Shepherd makes many unacknowledged borrowings, quotes a scripture by name once and once only. In Vision ii. 5 he says: "The Lord is near unto them that turn to Him, as it is written in Eldad and Medad, who prophesied to the people in the wilderness."

We cannot doubt that the matter of the book was the prophetic utterances of Eldad and Medad. Legend has not been very busy with their names, but the Midrashim (Tanchuma) and Targums say something of them and of what they prophesied. They are made half-brothers of Moses, in two ways, (1) According to the author of the Hebrew Questions on Chronicles (iv. 17), attributed to Jerome, they had other names, Epher and Jalon. After the giving of the Law, he goes on, Moses commanded his father Amram to put away his wife Jochebed, because she, being Levi's daughter, was aunt to her husband. Amram did so, married again, and Eldad and Medad were his offspring. (2) A Midrash says that after Amram' s death Jochebed married Elizaphan and bore Eldad and Medad to him. The gift of prophecy was bestowed on them (Sanhedrin, 1) because when chosen among the seventy Elders they said they were unworthy of the honour. Tanchuma says they prophesied of things that were to happen as long as forty years after, whereas the other Elders only predicted things near at hand. Alone among the Elders their names are recorded; they kept their gift of prophecy and entered the Promised Land, They prophesied of the death of Moses and succession of Joshua (so also Pseudo-Philo); or, say others, of the quails; or of Gog and Magog.

We have seen that Hermas at Rome quotes Eldad and Medad. In Clement of Rome' s letter, and in the Homily that is called his second Epistle, a prophetical passage is quoted without a name, which Bishop Lightfoot guessed to be taken from this same book. The guess is an interesting one, and the passage shall be given here. There are considerable differences between the two quotations.

I Clem., 23; II. 11: "Far be from you that scripture where it saith (for the prophetic word also saith, II.) Miserable are the double-minded which doubt in their soul (heart, II.), which say: (all, II.) these things we heard in our fathers' days also, and lo! we have grown old and nothing of these things hath befallen us (but we expecting from day to day have seen none of these things, II.). O foolish ones, compare yourselves to a tree; take the vine; first it sheddeth the leaf, then a shoot cometh (then a leaf, then a flower: II. omits), and after that a sour berry, then a cluster fully ripe. (Here I. ends; II. continues): So also my people hath had unquietnesses and afflictions: afterward it shall receive good things."

The resemblance to 2 Peter iii. 4, etc. (where is the promise of his coming?) is pointed out by Lightfoot.

The difficulty I find in acquiescing in Lightfoot's conjecture is that I do not quite see whom Eldad and Medad would be addressing. In the story as we have it in Numbers xi., their prophecy is uttered not very long after the giving of the Law, and just before the gift of the quails. The people have not been long in the wilderness—not long enough, it seems to me, to make it appropriate that they should say "we have grown old in looking for the fulfilment of the promises." Such language would be more fitting in the mouth of Israel when in exile and hoping for the Return. And so I think that those are perhaps more likely to be right who suggest that the apocryphal Ezekiel is the source of this passage.