9 - Liturgical Fragments


The Words of the Heavenly Lights

In 1961 M. Baillet published in Revue Biblique two long fragments of a liturgical composition (Un recueil liturgique de Qumran, Grotte 4: 'Les paroles des luminaires', pp. 195-250). The precise significance of the mysterious title, 'The Words of the Heavenly Lights', is so far uncertain, but the prayers and hymns included under this heading were apparently intended for various days of the week. One of the unpublished fragments mentions 'the fourth day' (Wednesday) and column VII contains the rubric 'Hymns for the Sabbath Day'. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that the long penitential prayer immediately preceding the Sabbath Hymns was meant for recital on a Friday. Each section appears to conclude with the old liturgical formula 'Amen! Amen!'

Baillet, on paleographical grounds, dates the manuscript from the middle of the second century B.C. and draws attention to the complete absence of any sectarian bias. 'The Words of the Heavenly Lights' may consequently be ascribed to the earliest, pre-Essene, stage of Qumran literature.


... Amen! Amen!

... <<II>> ... We pray Thee, O Lord, act in accordance with Thyself, in accordance with the greatness of Thy might, Thou who didst on our fathers when they rebelled against Thy word. Thou were angry with them so as to wish to destroy them, but because of Thy love for them and for the sake of Thy Covenant - for Moses had atoned for their sin - and in order that Thy great might and the abundance of Thy mercy might be known to everlasting generations, Thou didst take pity on the them. So let Your anger and wrath against all [their] sin turn away from Thy people Israel.

Remember Thy marvels which Thou didst in the sight of the nations. For we were called by Thy Name ... to [cause] us [to repent] with all (our) heart and soul and to plant Thy Law in our heart [that we might never depart from it, straying neither] to right nor to left. For Thou wilt heal us of foolishness and of blindness and confusion [of heart ... Behold] we were sold because of our iniquities but despite our offences Thou didst call us ... Thou wilt save us from sinning against Thee ...

<<III>> ... Behold, all the nations are as nothing beside Thee, they are counted as void and naught before Thee. We have called on Thy Name alone. Thou hast created us for Thy glory and made us Thy children in the sight of all the nations. For Thou hast named Israel 'My son, m firstborn', and hast chastised us as a man chastises his son. Thou hast caused us to grow throughout the years of our generations [by means of] evil diseases, famine, thirst, pestilence, and the sword ... of Thy Covenant. Because Thou hast chosen us [from all] the earth [to be Thy people,] therefore hast Thou poured out Your anger [and jealousy] upon us together with all the fury of Thy wrath. Thou hast caused [the scourge] of Thy [plagues] to cleave to us of which Moses wrote, and Thy servants the Prophets, that Thou wouldst send evil against us in the last days ...

<<IV>> ... Thy dwelling-place ... a resting-place in Jerusalem, the city which] Thou hast [chosen] from a the earth that Thy [Name] might remain there for ever. For Thou hast loved Israel above all the peoples. Thou hast chosen the tribe of Judah and hast established Thy Covenant with David that he might be as a princely shepherd over Thy people and sit before Thee on the throne of Israel for ever. All the nations have seen Thy glory, Thou who hast sanctified Thyself in the midst of Thy people Israel. They brought their offering to Thy great Name, silver and gold and precious stones together with all the treasures of their lands, that they might glorify Thy people, and Zion Thy holy city, and the House of Thy majesty. And there was neither adversary nor misfortune, but peace and blessing ... and they ate and were satisfied and grew fat ...

<<V>> ... [they forsook] the fount of living waters and served a strange god in their land ... Also, their land was ravaged by their enemies; for Thy fury and the heat of Thy wrath overflowed, together with the fire of Thy jealousy, making of it a desert where no man came nor went. Yet notwithstanding all this, Thou didst not reject the seed of Jacob neither didst Thou cast away-Israel to destruction, breaking Thy Covenant with them. For Thou alone art a living God and there is none beside Thee. Thou were gracious towards Thy people Israel in all the lands to which Thou didst banish them, that they might remember to return to Thee and to hearken to Thy voice [according to] all Thou had commanded by the hand of Moses Thy servant.

For Thou hast shed Thy Holy Spirit upon us, bringing upon us Thy blessings, that we might seek Thee in our distress [and mur]mur (prayers) in the ordeal of Thy chastisement. We have entered into distress, have been [stri]cken and tried by the fury of the oppressor. For we also have tired God with our iniquity, we have wearied the Rock with [our] sins. [But] in order that we may profit, Thou hast not wearied us who lead [us] in the way in [which we must walk. But] we have not heeded ...

<<VI>> ... [Thou hast taken away] all our transgressions and hast purified us of our sin for Your own sake. Your, Your is righteousness, O Lord, for it is Thou who hast done all this! Now, on the day when our heart is humbled, we expiate our iniquity and the iniquity of our fathers, together with our unfaithfulness and rebellion. We have not rejected Thy trials and scourges; our soul has not despised them to the point of breaking Thy Covenant despite all the distress of our soul. For Thou, who hast sent our enemies against us, strengthen our heart that we may recount Thy mighty deeds to everlasting generations. We pray Thee O Lord, since Thou work marvels from everlasting to everlasting, to let Your anger and wrath turn away from us. Look on [our affliction] and trouble and distress, and deliver Thy people Israel [from all] the lands, near and far, [to which Thou hast banished them], every man who is inscribed in the Book of Life .. . serve Thee and give thanks to [Thy holy Name] ...

<<VII>> ... who delivers us from all distress. Amen! [Amen!]


Hymns For The Sabbath Day

Give thanks ...
[Bless] His holy Name unceasingly
... all the angels of the holy firmament
... [above] the heavens,
the earth and all its deep places,
the great [Abyss] and Abaddon
and the waters and all that is [in them.]
[Let] all His creatures [bless Him] unceasingly
for everlasting [ages. Amen! Amen!]


A Liturgical Prayer

The following fragments, published by J.T. Milik (Qumran Cave 1, Oxford, 1955, pp. 153-5), belong to a collection of prayers for Jewish festivals. The title of the present section is lost, but reference to the Renewal of the Covenant seems to indicate that we have here another part of the sect's Pentecostal liturgy.

<<I>> ... Thou wilt cause the wicked to be our ransom and the unfaithful to be our redemption. [Thou wilt] blot out all our oppressors and we shall praise Thy Name for ever [and ever]. For this hast Thou created us and [to say to Thee] this: Blessed art Thou ...

<<II>> ... the Great Light (of heaven) for the [day]time, [and the Little Light (of heaven) for the night] ... without transgressing their laws; ... and their dominion is over all the world.

But the seed of man did not understand all that Thou caused them to inherit; they did not discern Thee in all Thy words and wickedly turned aside from every one. They heeded not Thy great power and therefore Thou didst reject them. For wickedness pleases Thee not, and the ungodly shall not be established before Thee.

But in the time of Thy goodwill Thou didst choose for Thyself a people. Thou didst remember Thy Covenant and [granted] that they should be set apart for Thyself from among all the peoples as a holy thing. And Thou didst renew for them Thy Covenant (founded) on a glorious Vision and the words of Thy Holy [Spirit], on the works of Thy hands and the writing of Thy Right Hand, that they might know the foundations of glory and the steps towards eternity ... [Thou didst raise up] for them a faithful shepherd ...


The Blessings

These fragments from a collection of blessings were originally attached to the Scroll of the Community Rule and the Messianic Rule. They have been skillfully pieced together by J.T. Milik (Qumran Cave 1, Oxford, 1955, PP. I I8-29).

The Blessings were to be recited by the Master or Guardian, and were, as it seems, intended for the Messianic age, and perhaps for the ceremony of the institution of the new Community. It is however possible that they were actually used during the course of some liturgy anticipating and symbolizing the coming of the Messianic era. All the members of the Covenant are blessed first, followed by someone who seems to be the priestly head of the Community, the Messiah of Aaron. The next blessing is addressed to the sons of Zadok, the Priests (and Levites?), and finally the Prince of the Congregation, the. Messiah-of Israel, is blessed. The rest of the document is lost.


The Blessing Of The Faithful.

<<1>> Words of blessing. The Master shall bless them that fear God and do] His will, that keep His commandments, and hold fast to His holy [Covenant], and walk perfectly [in all the ways of] His [truth]; whom He has chosen for an eternal Covenant which shall endure for ever.

May the [Lord bless you from the Abode of His holiness]; may He open for you from heaven an eternal fountain which [shall not fail]!


May. He [favour] you with every [heavenly] blessing;
[may He teach you] the knowledge of the Holy Ones!
[May He unlock for you the] everlasting [fountain;
may He not withhold the waters of life from] them that thirst!



The Blessing Of The High Priest

<<II>> ...

<<III>> ... May the Lord lift His countenance towards you;
[may He delight in the] sweet odour [of your sacrifices]!

May He choose [all] them that sit in your pries[tly college];
may He store up all your sacred offerings, and in the [season of] ... all your seed!

May He [lift] His countenance towards all your congregation!

May He place upon your head [a diadem] ... in [everlasting] glory;
may He sanctify your seed in glory without end!

May He grant you everlasting [peace] ...

May He fight [at the head of] your Thousands [until the generation of falsehood is ended]
... [to bend] many peoples before you ... all the riches of the world ...

For God has established all the foundations of ...
may He lay the foundation of your peace for ever!


The Blessing Of The Priests

Words of blessing. The M[aster shall bless] the sons of Zadok the Priests, whom God has chosen to confirm His Covenant for [ever, and to inquire] into all His precepts in the midst of His people, and to instruct them as He commanded; who have established [His Covenant] on truth and watched over all His laws with righteousness and walked according to the way of His choice.

May the Lord bless you from His holy [Abode]; may He set you as a splendid jewel in the midst of the congregation of the saints!

May He [renew] for you the Covenant of the everlasting] priesthood;
may He sanctify you [for the House] of Holiness!

May He [judge all] the leaders by your works, and all [the princes] of the peoples by the words from out of your lips!

May He give you as your portion the first-fruits of [all delectable things]; may He bless by your hand the counsel of all flesh!

<<IV>> ... may everlasting blessings be the crown upon your head! ...

[For] He has chosen you [to] ... and to number the saints and to [bless] your people ... the men of the Council of God by your hand, and not by the hand of a prince ...

... May you be as an Angel of the Presence in the Abode of Holiness to the glory of the God of [hosts] .

May you attend upon the service in the Temple of the Kingdom and decree destiny in company with the Angels of the Presence, in common council [with the Holy Ones] for everlasting ages and time without end; for [all] His judgements are [truth]!

May He make you holy among His people, and an [eternal] light [to illumine] the world with knowledge and to enlighten the face of the Congregation [with wisdom]!

[May He] consecrate you to the Holy of Holies! For [you are made] holy for Him and you shall glorify His Name and His holiness ...


The Blessing Of The Prince Of The Congregation

The Master shall bless the Prince of the Congregation ... and shall renew for him the Covenant of the Community that he may establish the kingdom of His people for ever, [that he may judge the poor with righteousness and] dispense justice with [equity to the oppressed] of the land, and that he may walk perfectly before Him in all the ways [of truth], and that he may establish His holy Covenant at the time of the affliction of those who seek God.

May the Lord raise you up to everlasting heights, and as a fortified tower upon a high wall!

[May you smite the peoples] with the might of your hand and ravage the earth with your scepter; may you bring death to the ungodly with the breath of your lips!

[May He shed upon you the spirit of counsel] and everlasting might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of God; may righteousness be the girdle [of your loins] and may your reins be girdled [with faithfulness] !

May He make your horns of iron and your hooves of bronze; may you toss like a young bull [and trample the peoples] like the mire of the streets!

For God has established you as the scepter. The rulers ... [and all the kings of the] nations shall serve you. He shall strengthen you with His holy Name and you shall be as a [lion; and you shall not lie down until you have devoured the] prey which naught shall deliver ...


The Triumph of Righteousness

Originally entitled The Book of Mysteries by J. T. Milik (Qumran Cave 1, pp. 102-5), these fragments expound the familiar theme of the struggle between good and evil but their nature is difficult to determine. Perhaps they derive from a sermon, or from an apocalyptical writing.

<<I>> ... the mysteries of sin ... They know not the mystery to come, nor do they understand the things of the past. They know not that which shall befall them, nor do they save their soul from the mystery to come.

And this shall be the sign for you that these things shall come to pass.

When the breed of iniquity is shut up, wickedness shall then be banished by righteousness as darkness is banished by the light. As smoke clears and is no more, so shall wickedness perish for ever and righteousness be revealed like a sun governing the world. All who cleave to the mysteries of sin shall be no more; knowledge shall fill the world and folly shall exist no longer.

This word shall surely come to pass; this prophecy is true. And by this may it be known to you that it shall not be taken back.

Do not all the peoples loathe iniquity? And yet it is spread by them all. Does not the fame of truth issue from the mouth of all the nations? Yet is there a lip or tongue which holds to it? Which nation likes to be oppressed by another stronger than itself, or likes its wealth to be wickedly seized? And yet which nation has not oppressed another, and where is there a people which has not seized [another]'s wealth?


The Angelic Liturgy

Two fragments of a strange and important document concerned with angelic worship were published by J. Strugnell in 1960 under-. the title, The Angelic Liturgy at Qumran (Congress Volume, Oxford, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum VII, Leiden, pp. 318-45).

In fragment I, the seven 'sovereign Princes' are the seven chief angels, and the object of their blessings appears to be the community of the saints, earthly and heavenly. Its original title, Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, seems to indicate that this angelic liturgy was thought to coincide with the Sabbath offering. If so, it testifies to the Community's belief in the union of heavenly and terrestrial worship.

The second fragment, The Divine Throne-Chariot, draws its inspiration from Ezekiel (I, x) and is related to the book of Revelation (iv). It depicts the appearance and movement of the Merkabah, the divine Chariot supported and drawn by the Cherubim, which is at the same time a throne and a vehicle. The 'small voice' of blessing is drawn from I Kings (XIX, 12): it was in a 'still small voice' that God manifested Himself to Elijah. In our Qumran text this voice is uttered by the Cherubim and it is interesting to note that although the Bible does not define the source of the voice, the ancient Aramaic translation of I Kings (Targum of Jonathan) ascribes it to angelic beings called 'they who bless silently'.

The Throne-Chariot was a central subject of meditation in ancient as well as in medieval Jewish esotericism and mysticism, but the guardians of Rabbinic orthodoxy tended to discourage such speculation. The liturgical use of Ezekiel's chapter on the Chariot is expressly forbidden in the Mishnah; it even lays down that no wise man is to share his understanding of the Merkabah with a person less enlightened than himself. As a result, there is very little ancient literary material extant on the subject, and the Qumran text is therefore of great importance to the study of the origins of Jewish mysticism.


The Angelic Blessings

In the name of the King's majesty,
[the fourth sovereign] Prince shall bless
with seven [majestic] words
[all who] walk [up]rightly.
He shall bless all who lay the foundations of [truth]
with seven [marvellous] words.
He shall bless all the gods [who exalt] true knowledge
[with seven] righteous words
(that they may obtain) His glorious favours.

In the name of His marvellous deeds,
the fifth [sovereign] Prince shall bless
with seven [words] of His exalted truth
[all who walk in] purity.
[He shall bless] all who eagerly do His will
with seven [marvellous words.
He shall bless] all who glorify Him
with seven majestic words that they may praise [Him for ever].

In the name [of the might of the God] of gods,
the sixth sovereign Prince shall bless
with seven words of His marvellous mighty deeds
all who are mighty in wisdom.

He shall bless all the perfect of way
with seven marvellous words
that they may stand with them that live for [ever].

He shall bless all who wait for Him
with seven marvellous words
that they may obtain the return
of the [grace] of His favours.

In the name of His holiness,
the seventh sovereign Prince shall bless
with seven words of His marvellous holiness
all the holy founders [of knowledge.

He shall bless] all who exalt His Statutes
with seven marvellous words
that they may be for them stout shields.

He shall bless all the [companions] of righteousness
who endlessly [praise] His glorious kingship
with seven [marvellous words]
(that they may obtain) everlasting peace.

In the name of ...
all the [sovereign] Princes [shall bless] the God of gods


The Divine Throne-Chariot

... the [ministers] of the Glorious Face in the abode of [the gods] of knowledge fall down before Him, [and the Cherubim utter blessings. And as they rise up, there is a divine small voice ... and loud praise; (there is) a divine [small] voice as they fold their wings.

The Cherubim bless the image of the Throne-Chariot above the firmament, and they praise the [majesty] of the fiery firmament beneath the seat of His glory. And between the turning wheels, Angels of Holiness come and go, as it were a fiery Vision of most holy spirits; and about them (flow) seeming rivulets of fire, like gleaming bronze, a radiance of many gorgeous colours, of marvellous pigments magnificently mingled.

The spirits of the Living God move perpetually with the glory of the wonderful Chariot. The small voice of blessing accompanies the tumult as they depart, and on the path of their return they worship the Holy One. Ascending, they rise marvelously; settling, they [stay] still. The sound of joyful praise is silenced and there is a small voice of blessing in all the camp of God. And a voice of praise [resounds] from the midst of all their divisions in [worship of] ... and each one in his place, all their numbered ones sing hymns of praise.


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