Testament Of Amram

(4Q543, 545-548)

extracted from  'Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered'
by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise

The Testament of Amram, if indeed we can call it this - Amram per se is mentioned only in Manuscript C - is one of the most splendid apocalyptic and visionary works in the corpus. In it, many of the themes we have encountered in the works discussed above come together in a fairly rationalized eschatological whole.


These include the usual ‘Light’, ‘Darkness’, ‘Belial’, ‘Righteousness’, ‘Truth’, ‘Lying’ and ‘Watcher’ vocabulary, including the very nice allusions to ‘sons of Righteousness’ - which we have already identified as a variant of the ‘sons of Zadok’ terminology - ‘sons of Light’, ‘sons of Darkness’ and ‘sons of Truth’, again widely disseminated through the whole corpus.


Added to these we have the very interesting allusion in Manuscript B to ‘serpents’ and ‘vipers’ encountered in many texts from Qumran (e.g. CD,v.14), not to mention a well-known parallel imagery in the Gospels (Matt. 3:7, 23:33, etc.).

Though we cannot be sure that the several fragments and manuscripts represented in this reconstruction in fact belong to the same composition, nor that they can be sequentially arranged in the manner shown; there are, in fact, overlaps which seem to indicate multiple copies of a single work and, in any event, they can be grouped typologically together. In addition, because of internal and external similarities, they are probably part of a cycle of literature associated with Moses’ father Amram.


This, in turn, is related to the Testament of Kohath material and the Levi cycle in general.


Manuscript C most fully preserves the beginning of the work, but has little in common with Manuscript B and Manuscript ?, which on the basis of content alone obviously belong together. Manuscript ? is referred to in this way in the literature, no more complete designation having yet been made.


Manuscript C, which includes the names of the principal dramatis personae like Amram, Kohath, Levi, Miriam and Aaron, pretends to be more historical. It and Manuscript E even give some of the ages of these characters, which are widely out of line with any real chronological understanding of the Exodus sojourn. The surviving fragments do not, however, show any knowledge of a relationship between Miriam and Hur, as suggested in Chapter 3, unless Uzziel and Hur can be equated. One should also note the anachronistic reference to Philistines in 2:19, reflected perhaps too in the Era of Light text in Chapter 8.

It is in Manuscript B, however, and the undesignated one succeeding it, that truly splendid material, which can hardly be referred to as testamentary, emerges. This consists again of a visionary recital of the most intense kind, similar to that in Chapters 1 and 2, the Firm Foundation materials above and in Chapter 7. Here, too, several identifications are made. First, in Line 13 of Manuscript B, the Enochic ‘Watchers’ are identified with ‘the serpent’ with ‘the visage of a viper’- evidently the same serpent that is connected to the downfall of man in the Adam and Eve story. We have probably already encountered him, as well, in the Tree of Evil text above.

Three more names are accorded him: ‘Belial’, ‘Prince of Darkness’ and ‘King of Evil'. This latter name, Melchi Jeshua, is to be contrasted with the well-known terminology integrally involved with Jesus’ Messianic and eschatological priesthood, Melchi Zedek / ‘King of Righteousness’, (Heb. 5-7), a subject that has interested scholars heretofore. The latter has two other synonyms, the Archangel Michael, the guardian Angel of Israel, and the Prince of Light (E.3.2).

Tied to these are the other usages, noted above, relating to ‘Righteousness’, ‘Truth’, ‘Light’ and ‘Lightness’, ‘Dark’ and ‘Darkness’, ‘Lying’ and the like. The ‘Way’ terminology, again widespread at Qumran and known to early Christianity, is also strong here. All these allusions have their counterparts in their application to the dramatis personae of interest to the Qumran writers and their historiography.


The text ends with perhaps the most marvelous paean to Light and Dark of any literary work, apart from the Chariots of Glory below and the well known prologue to the Gospel of John.



Manuscript C

Column 1

(1) A copy [of the book of the words of the vis]ion of Amram the son of Kohath, the son of Levi: all

(2) that [he revealed to his sons and that he commanded t]hem on the day [of his death, in] the year

(3) one hundred and thirty-six, whi[ch] was the year of his death, [in the o]ne hundred

(4) and fifty-second year of the exil[e of Israel to Egypt ... upon [him, and he sent]

(5) to call Uzziel his youngest brother, and [gave] to him [in marr]iage [Miri]am [his] daughter. [For he said]

(6) ‘You (Miriam) are thirty years old.’ Then he gave a wedding feast seven [day]s long,

(7) and ate and drank and rejoiced at the feast. Then, when

(8) the Mays of the wedding feast were completed, he called for Aaron his son. Now, [h]e (Aaron) was a man of ... years of age

(9) [... and he said] to him, ‘Call ... and Malachijah ... from the house of

(10) ... above. He called him ... Column 2

(11) in this land, and I went up to ...

(12) to bury our fathers. And I went up ...

(13) to [a]rise, to bind and pile sheaths and to build ...

(14) gre[a]t from the sons of my uncle, all togeth[er ... and from]

(15) our excee[ding great labors, [until in Egy]pt there died ...

(16) the rumor of war and unrest returned ... to the land of E[gypt ...]

(17) to meet and [they had] not bui[lt gr]aves for their fa[th]ers. Then [my father Kohath] released me [to go,]

(18) to build and to get [all their needs] for the[m from the land of Canaan. [And while]

(19) we [were] building, wa[r broke out between] the Philistines and Egypt, and ... was winn[ing ...]


Manuscript E

Fragment 1

(1) ... that Levi his son sacrificed to ...

(2) I said to you at the alt[ar] of stop[e ...]

(3) [con]cerning sacrifice[s ...]

Fragment 2

(2) I rescued ...

(3) he built ...

(4) at Mount Sinai ...

(5) a great blessing at the bronz[e] altar ...

(6) from among all the people on earth his [son] will be exalted as a priest. The[n ...]

(7) and his sons after him, for all the generations of eternity in Tru[th ...]

(8) and I awoke from the sleep of my eyes, and [I] wrote down the vision ...

(9) I went out from the land of Canaan, and it happened to me just as he said ...

(10) exalting, and afterwar[d], in the twen[tieth] year, [I returned to the land of Canaan]

(11) ... you were ...


Manuscript B

Fragment 1

(9) [... 1 saw Watchers]

(10) in my vision, the dream-vision. Two (men) were fighting over me, saying ...

(11) and holding a great contest over me. I asked them, ‘Who are you, that you are thus empo[wered over me?’ They answered me, ‘We]

(12) [have been em]powered and rule over all mankind.’ They said to me, ‘Which of us do yo[u choose to rule (you)?’ I raised my eyes and looked.]

(13) [One] of them was terr[i]fying in his appearance, [like a serpent, [his] cl[oa]k many-colored yet very dark...

(14) [And I looked again], and ... in his appearance, his visage like a viper, and [wearing ...]

15) [exceedingly, and all his eyes ...]


Fragment 2

(1) [... em]powered over you ...

(2) [I replied to him,] ‘This [Watcher,] who is he?’ He answered me, ‘This Wa[tcher ...]

(3) [and his three names are Belial and Prince of Darkness] and King of Evil.’ I said, ‘My lord, what dom[inion ...?’]

(4) [’and his every way is darkened, his every work da[rk]ened. In Darkness he ...

(5) [Yo]u saw, and he is empowered over all Darkness, while I [am empowered over all light.]

(6) [... from] the highest regions to the lowest I rule over all Light, and over al[1 that is of God. I rule over (every) man]

Fragment 3

(1) [of His grace and peace. Over all the sons of Lig]ht have] I been empowered.’ I asked him, [What are your names ... ?’]

(2) He [s]aid to me, ‘[My] three names are [Michael and Prince of Light and King of Righteousness.’]


Manuscript ?

Column 1

(1) ... tribes ...

(2) to them and all [his] ways [are True ...]

(3) [and he will heal] them of all their ills ...

(4) them from death and from de[struction ...]

(5) [o]ver you, blessed sons ...

(6) all the generations of Israel for[ever ...]

(7) angry at me, for the sons of Ri[ghteousness ...]

(8) between the sons of Lying and the sons of Tr[uth ...]

(9) I [will make known to you;] certainly I will inform y[ou that all the sons of Light]

(10) will be made Light, [whereas all the sons] of Darkness will be made Dark. [The sons of Light ...]

(11) and in all their Knowledge [they will] be, and the sons of Darkness will be dest[ro]yed ...

(12) For all foolishness and Evi[1 will be darkened, while all [pea]ce and Truth will be made Ligh[t. All the sons of Light]

(13) [are destined for Light and [eternal j]oy (and) [re]joic[ing.] All the sons of Dark[ness] are destined for [Darkness and death]

(14) and destruction ... Lightness for the people. And I shall reveal [to you ...]

(15) from Darkness, for all ...

(16) the sons of [Darkness ...] and all the sons of Light ...