Jannes and Jambres
Paraphrase prepared by Bobby Breslin
The king summoned all his servants, both the wise men
and the magicians. After seven days, he was walking about his
house and saw that one of the apple trees had flourished and the
branches were already providing shade. When he had become aware
of this, he ordered one of his magicians, Jannes, to sit under
the apple tree.
While Jannes was seated underneath the tree, there was a
great earthquake and from heaven came the sound of thunder and a
streak of lightning, causing some of the branches of the tree to
break off. When Jannes saw what had just occurred, he ran into
the library to get his magical tools. When he returned, two
people appeared near the tree. Both were clothed in white robes,
with the two having their own magical tools. One of the men
turned to Jannes and stated that the Lord of the earth and the
Overseer of the universe has sent us to lead you away to Hades.
From now on Jannes, you will be a companion of the dead. You
shall forever be pitied. Then the two men in white said, let
there be granted to you, fourteen days in your house and after
that the angel of death shall come for you.
When Jannes' brother, Jambres, knew what had transpired,
he sent for their mother to join them. When she arrived on the
scene, Jannes explained what had just occurred. He said to his
mother and brother, "I shall send for you, my mother, and you, my
brother, when it is time." He also said to Jambres that Jambres
should attend to their mother and to heed her faithfully. Then
he approached her and kissed her, fighting back the tears until
she had left. He then took leave of his friends, having urged
them all to take carafe his mother for him. Then he took his
brother with him to Memphis.
While on their journey to Memphis, Jannes handed Jambres
a book. He said, "Brother, I am passing this document to you.
Keep it secret, and take heed so as not to go forth on the day
when the king marches out with the grandees of Egypt against the
people of the Hebrews. And also make sure you do not accompany
the king on his siege." Then Jannes stated that when I become
ill and my soul is being taken, the God from heaven has defeated
us. Make sure you summon our mother to me before I perish.
Seven days later, while in Memphis, the brothers were
enjoying themselves at a wedding. Jannes stated during this
wedding, "Men and brothers, after I took up the position against
a certain Hebrew." But before he could finish speaking,
emissaries came from the king's palace stating, "come quickly and
oppose Moses, the Hebrew, who is performing wonders to the
amazement of all."
When Jannes arrived in the palace, he opposed Moses and
his brother, Aaron, by doing everything they had done. Then, the
fatal disease struck him on the spot, and with a painful ulcer he
went to the hedra. After a while, Jannes sent word to the king,
that this active power is of the Hebrew God. He said he was
unable to defeat this power, and he was on his death bed.
Jannes then called his brother and urged him not to
grieve for him because it could be hazardous to him. All our
possessions cannot protect us against this power. make ready for
the spirit of death to come for me, and after it has come, try to
summon me through my spirit. Morning was now approaching and all
things being observed, Jannes made an inquiry at what hour did
Jambres see the setting of the sun. Then he said, "such is a
generation of lying lips and deceitful hearts of the hour of my
death. Come and see how it takes," but Jambres said nothing and
did not move.
After this occurred, the king of Egypt planned on
pursuing the people of the Hebrews, who were now leaving Egypt.
The people of Egypt were weeping in this time of sorrow, but
Jambres did not. He remembered the oath which he swore to his
brother. When Jannes said to him, a hundred thousand people,
hundred foals, hundred camels, could not keep these events from
happening. The Jambres heard a noise and heard Jannes speak from
his bed. Jannes told Jambres that he could not keep Jannes from
perishing because Jannes' whole body had been agitated since he
When Jannes heard of the king's plans, he encouraged all
his other friends, just like he did his brother. Then his mother
arrived, crying out, "my poor son, Jannes, how is he." When his
mother viewed her son, she was amazed at how Jannes appeared.
Jannes preferred that his mother would have not seen him like
this. His mother approached him so she could kiss him, but he
turned away from her. He said to her, "stay back, on account of
the fever. I am unable to move and I am in much pain." Then his
mother uttered to him, "what can I do for you my son." He
replied, "you took the trouble to come and see me in my awful
condition, and I am thankful for that. I will go to my grave
happy that I was able to see you one last time before I perish."
His mother then told him, "I saw the dead and no one resembled
you, child. Lie here and you shall be saved." Then his mother
realized that Jannes' appearance had been utterly changed, her
son was a corpse. His tongue and lips were not moving, Jannes,
her son, and Jambres' brother was dead.
Jambres and his mother sat there weeping over their
departed loved one. Jambres stated that, "I have been deprived
my brother's presence and all the money or possessions could not
replace him." The Jambres realized that the spirit of death had
not only taken his brother, but also took his mother from this
world. He took them both to the tomb of his brother. After
having performed the complete funeral rites, he abandoned his
mother and brother forever.
Jambres then returned to the apple tree with Jannes'
magical books and tools. He performed necromancy and brought up
from the netherworld his brother's soul. The soul of Jannes said
to his brother, "I your brother did not die unjustly, but indeed
justly, and the judgment will go against me. Since I was more
clever than all the clever magicians, and opposed the two
brothers, Moses and Aaron, who performed great signs and wonders.
As a result, I died and was brought from among the living to the
netherworld, where there is great burning and the pit of
perdition, whence no ascent is possible. Make sure you do good
in you life to your children and friends; for in the
netherworld, no good exists, only gloom and darkness. After you
will have died and entered the netherworld, your abode will be
two cubits wide and four cubits long. Those who do not do evil
do not enter the netherworld, they are taken to a more pleasant
and beautiful place by the Hebrew God.
The sons of Egypt, on account of their actions in life,
will be descending to the netherworld also. There is no
forgiveness for the actions our people have done to the Hebrews.
For the gates of heaven are not for the dumb and evil. We were
unable to keep away from corruption in our lives, for Moses knew
that we shall descend to Hades when we perish. Our limbs are
full of darkness, and hence we are burning in hell, and there is
nothing anyone can do.
We, who worshipped idols and carved images, came to
destruction with our idols, for neither the idols nor their
worshippers does God the king of the earth love. In Hades, no
one, not even the kings of Egypt can avoid the wretched one. For
those who practiced sorcery, committed perjury, and other sinful
actions of the like, would end up here. Not even a king excels,
has equality in Hades. For everyone who opposes the God of the
earth, the mighty one, cannot avoid the torture of hell. Nothing
we do can protect us now from the wrath of the Hebrew God, we are
all doomed for the way we lived our lives.
Charlesworth, James H. The Old Testament
Pseudepigrapha. Oxford Press. 1985.
April 9, 1997
Intro. to the Old Testament
by Bobby Breslin