Chapter 8 - Divination, Magic and Miscellaneous

The texts in this section represent a cross section of the remaining unpublished corpus. Some present an interesting glimpse into everyday life 2,000 years ago. Though astrology, amulets, magic and the like were frowned upon by the Rabbis and in theory forbidden, it is clear from other sources too that they played some role in the day-today life of the people. The material we have here bears this out.


How widespread this was or how serious people really were about these things is difficult to assess. In Graeco-Roman antiquity, astrology and divination counted among their devotees the best minds of the age. The foremost philosophical school in Rome, the Stoics, were astrology’s strongest advocates. Among Jews, too, astrological ideas had penetrated to the very heart of the Temple in Jerusalem. Josephus informs us that the seven branches of the menorah there symbolize the seven planets then known (among which were counted the sun and the moon).


He adds that the twelve loaves of the bread of the Presence embody the signs of the zodiac. Some Jewish writers of the period, such as Artapanus and Pseudo-Eupolemus, went so far as to ascribe the discovery of astrology to the patriarch Abraham. Likewise 1 Enoch makes Enoch himself the discoverer and revealer of this kind of knowledge. Thus it should come as no surprise that among the texts from Qumran one finds a number of astrological writings.

Amulets too were certainly widespread despite the ban on them, though these do not differ in kind from Jewish phylacteries which were and still are widely used. There is one reference to amulets playing a role, albeit negative, among warriors in the Maccabean period (2 Macc. 12:40). Magical incantation bowls and items of this kind from this period and later also seem to have been widespread. Magical incantations sought to prevent various calamities. Magical incantations against evil spirits were certainly a very significant part of popular religion in Graeco-Roman antiquity.


Everyone believed in such spirits, and it was thought prudent to take steps to ensure one’s protection. For a slight fee the local magician or scribe would write out a spell or two, often on a bowl, less frequently (so our meagre evidence indicates) on a piece of leather or metal that could be rolled up and kept in a protective case. The inscribed object would then be buried under one’s house or somehow affixed at an appropriate location, perhaps near the door. Sometimes people would keep these items indoors.


Texts such as the Brontologion and the Physiognomic ones represented here are almost unique from this era and milieu. This fact alone probably testifies to the somewhat limited nature of their use, but it is surprising that they existed at all among what otherwise seem to be zealous holy warriors. This shows that they must have played a role in the everyday life of the people, as indeed they did in the Roman Empire generally, and as they do today.


Like astrological systems, the genres represented by these texts sought to divine the future, the first by searching the Heavens and the astrological signs for thunder and rain; the second by inspecting a person’s physical characteristics. It is not clear whether the interests they illustrate were proscribed at Qumran to the extent that they were in Rabbinic circles, though their existence seems to testify that they were not.


In this regard, one should note Qumran’s interest in ‘Secret Mysteries’, ‘Eternal Secrets’, discourses in cryptic script and other tendencies towards esoterica. The kinds of astrological designations present in the Brontologion are also present in Ibn Gabirol’s work of medieval Jewish mysticism, The Crown of the Kingdom.

The two texts on sectarian discipline and the Paean for King Jonathan actually mention historical people - the disciplinary text quite literally, the Paean or Holy Poem as a dedication anyway or panegyric. With the Priestly Courses III - Aemilius Kills text also mentioning historical personages, these passages are of profound historical interest. The Paean to King Jonathan is perhaps a missing link in solving crucial historiographic problems relating to the Community’s attitude towards Jerusalem. It certainly puts to rest previous theories of Qumran origins envisaging this individual as the Wicked Priest of Qumran allusion.

Why this remained buried for so long, like so many other texts, is difficult to comprehend. Bringing it to light now is final testimony to the felicitous effect unlimited and free access to all individuals can have on the progress of human knowledge. It provides a unique witness to the mindset of the movement we have before us, in perhaps an earlier formative period and its attitude towards a principal establishment figure of that period.

The disciplinary text which we entitle after an allusion found in the text, ‘He Loved his Bodily Emissions’ is also of some import. Related to some of the Halakhic texts above, it too provides a unique insight into the everyday life of the Community. That the people involved in such activities were serious, and this was not simply an ideal to be followed at some future utopian era, is graphically and vividly attested to.


The form of ‘Judgement’ or ‘reproof being referred to is stark. It is, however, definitely mentioned in the Damascus Document as among those the Mehakker or ‘Bishop’ was actually instructed not only to make and carry out but also to record. Clearly we have such a record here.

Back to Contents




45. Brontologion (4Q318) (Plate 23)

The present work in Aramaic is perhaps the most intriguing divination text found at Qumran, for it is simultaneously a brontologion, a selenedromion and, apparently, a thema mundi. Each of these terms requires some explanation. A brontologion is a text that attempts to predict the future based upon where within the heavens one hears the sound of thunder (the Greek brontos means ‘thunder’, hence the name).


Examples of such works date back many centuries before the period of the Qumran writings. A selenedromion is a text that plots the movement of the moon (Greek selene) through the sky and makes predictions based upon those observations. This Qumran text records the movements of the moon with respect to the signs of the zodiac and combines that approach with the hearing of thunder.


Thus the scheme stipulates that if the moon is in a certain sign of the zodiac (and it will be in that sign several times during the year) when one hears thunder, then a certain event of importance to the entire nation will happen.

But the text goes beyond this already interesting combination of divinatory methods in that it regards Taurus rather than Aries as the first sign of the zodiac. It is possible to ascertain this fact simply by noting the regular pattern of the text as preserved and then projecting the same pattern backwards to Nisan, the first month. What does this change in the usual order mean?


The reason that Aries is listed as the first sign even in contemporary newspapers and books is that during the Hellenistic period (roughly the fourth through the first centuries BC), when astrology developed essentially into its modern (Western) form, the sun rose in Aries at the vernal equinox. By the year 125 BC, however, a Greek astronomer had discovered the phenomenon of the precession of the zodiac - that the zodiac was slowly moving in relation to the sun. This discovery indicated that over a period of some 2,100 years the sun would move from sign to sign across the zodiac. Thus it would not always rise in the sign of Aries and, long ago, it had not.


From about 4500 to 2100 BC, the sun had risen in Taurus. By assigning Taurus the first place in the list of signs, this Qumrân work is advocating an astrological system based on the Creation. According to the system of Biblical chronology to which the author of this work adhered, God had created the world and the heavenlies some time during the period of Taurus’ prominence.


Probably he believed that the Creation occurred in the fifth millennium BC. Astrological texts that attempt to build up a sort of horoscope for the world itself are known by the term thema mundi - perhaps an appropriate term for the work at hand. We have used here the familiar Latin equivalents to the names of the months and signs in Aramaic. The last lines of the preserved text from Fragment 2 Column 2 contain some interesting textual information.


Even in this genre of literature, the nationalistic and xenophobic sentiments so characteristic of Qumran as a whole are discernible: ‘If it thunders on a day when the moon is in Gemini, it signifies fear and distress caused by foreigners’, or the line preceding it ‘nations will plunder one another’ (italics ours). Though Greek texts of this genre express themselves in a not unsimilar manner, it is helpful to look at some of these allusions in a broader context. The use of the word ‘aural in Line 7 is an interesting one. Here and elsewhere we translate it as ‘suffering’.


It is an important concept at Qumran. It is also important in early Christianity, because it occurs in the pivotal ‘suffering servant’ passage of Isa. 53 - referred to in relation to the Messianic Leader Text in Chapter 1 and elsewhere - i.e. the ‘aural of his soul (nephesh - see the use of this word tied to Ebion in the Hymns of the Poor and elsewhere above)... and by his Knowledge will my servant, the Righteous One, justify the Many and bear their sins.’


The term is also used in the Habakkuk Pesher, viii.2 in the eschatological exegesis of ‘the Righteous shall live by his faith’ (Hab. 2:4), which is so important both to Qumran and in Pauline theology (cf. Gal. 3:11 which also mentions Gen. 15:6). Since it is also used thereafter to describe the ‘empty’ effect of the ‘worthless service’ and ‘works of Lying’ with which ‘the Spouter of Lies’ leads the Community astray in x.12, we have tried to emphasize this eschatological dimension by translating it as ‘suffering works’.

The emphasis on thunder in this eschatological scheme is also of interest in view of the many notices to ‘rainmaking’ connected in the literature. This includes the early Honi the Circle-Drawer, who operated as a ‘rainmaker’ in the period of Aristobulus, the son of Alexander Jannaeus, just prior to Pompey’s storming of the Temple in 63 BC. This Honi, Josephus revealingly also calls Onias the Just.


As Josephus records it, Honi refused to condemn the partisans of Aristobulus, who, demonstrating their zeal and opposition to foreign rule, were holding out against the Romans in the Temple; he rather condemned the Phariseeizing collaborators of his brother Hyrcanus (Ant. 14.22-5). These, the reader will recall, support both the coming of the Romans and by consequence, the rise of the Herodian family that ensues.

As we have seen in our consideration of Priestly Courses III Aemilius Kills - this is an archetypical moment for the definition of the Qumran mindset and ethos, and crucial historiographically for an understanding of their development. The reference in 2.2.8 of the Brontologion to ‘Arabs’ is also interesting and complements the reference in the Aemilius text, also to ‘Arabs’.


But James the just (note the parallel to Honi’s cognomen) was also reckoned as one of these primordial rainmakers. This is described in a notice from the fifth-century AD historian Epiphanius, probably based on a lost work about James which he mentions - the Anabathmoi Jacobou (The Ascents of James; Haeres. 78:14. Note too the possible allusion to the Mysticism of Heavenly Ascents). Also the letter ascribed to James’ name abounds with the imagery of ‘rainmaking’ in its apocalyptic and climactic final Chapter, evoking one of the first archetypes in this tradition connected to apocalyptic ‘Judgement’, Elijah (Jas. 5:7-18).

This evocation of rain and its connection with eschatological judgement is strong as well in the War Scroll from Cave 1 at Qumran, where it is again connected to the exegesis of ‘the Star Prophecy’ and combined with the famous eschatological allusion from Dan. 7 of ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven’.


The ‘clouds of Heaven’ here, as we have seen, are the Heavenly Hosts or all the Kedoshim / ‘Holy Ones’ - the ‘rain’ being the judgement they bring (see Eisenman, ‘Eschatological Rain Imagery in the War Scroll from Qumran and the Letter of James’, JNES, 1990). Josephus, perhaps sums the situation up very incisively when he observes that it was ‘Imposters and magicians’ of this type who were more dangerous even than the violent revolutionaries, because they were scheming to bring about both ‘innovation’ (religious reform) and ‘change in government’ (War 2.259).


One should also note the relationship of ‘thunder’ symbolism to the two ‘twins’, John and James, called in the New Testament ‘Boanerges’ / ‘Sons of Thunder’ (Mark 3:17). Whether this epithet has any relevance to the issue we are discussing is difficult to assess, but since the same two apostles were represented as having asked Jesus to be allowed to sit on his ‘right hand’ (Matt. 20:21; see too Mark 14:62’s ‘sitting on the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of Heaven’), one can assume that it does.

The supernatural aspects of the ‘sons of Zadok’ or ‘the Elect of Israel’ have also been discussed at length in this work. There is no doubt that these have a role to play in the Last Judgement. The Messiah himself has ‘Heaven and Earth’ at his disposal in the text by this title with which we begin the work. The Zaddikim were ‘the Pillars’ that upheld the earth; so were presumably ‘Pillar’ apostles like James (Gal. 2:9).


‘The Son of Man’ was to come ‘on the clouds of Heaven’ and the Heavens were ‘to rain down Judgement’. Elijah, referred to in the Letter of James, and Phineas, apparently too, before him, were archetypical rainmakers; so was Honi, called ‘the Circle-Drawer’, because of the circles he drew to bring the rain. James, too, was to bring the rain – ‘rain’ taken both in its mundane sense and eschatologically.

The zodiacal dimension of the notation ‘twins’ is in a certain sense reinforced by the name in Aramaic of one of the astronomical zodiacal signs mentioned in this text, Thomiah, i.e. Gemini. This in turn relates to the name of another of the disciples of Jesus, with regard to whom the ‘brother’ signification is prominent as well, Judas Thomas / ‘Thomas the Twin’. The ‘brother’ signification with regard to either or both of the two James mentioned above is also clear.



Fragment 1

(5) [and on the 7th Sagittarius. On the eighth and the ninth Capricorn. On the tenth and the eleventh Aquarius. On the twelfth and the] thirteenth and the [four]teenth (6) [Pisces. On the fifteenth and the sixteenth Aries. On the seventeenth and the eighteenth Taurus. On the nineteenth, the twentieth and the twenty-[first (7) Gemini. On the twenty-second and the twenty-third Cancer. On the twenty-fourth and the twenty-fifth Leo. On the twenty-sixth], the twenty-seventh and the twentyeighth (8) [Virgo. On the twenty-ninth, thirtieth and thirty-first Libra.] (9) [Tishri On the first and second Scorpio. On the third and fourth Sagittarius. On the fifth, sixth and seventh Capricorn. On the eighth...

Fragment 2

Column 1

(1) and on the thirteenth and the [fo]urteenth Cancer. On the fi[ft]eenth and the sixteenth L[e]o. On the seventeenth [and] the eighteenth (2) Vi[r]go. On the [ni]nteenth, the twentieth and the twenty-first Libra. On the twenty-[second and the twenty-third Scorpio. On the twenty-fourth (3) and the twenty-fifth Sagitt[arius]. On the twenty six[th], the twenty-seve[nth] and the twentyeig[ hth Capricorn. On the twenty-n[inth] (4) and the thirtieth Aquari[us]. Shevat On the first and the second [Pisc]es. On [the third and the] fourth (5) [Aries. On] the fifth, [the sixth and the seventh Taurus. On the eig[hth and ninth Gemini.] On the tenth (6) [and eleventh] Cancer. On the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth Leo. [On the fifteenth and sixteenth [Virgo]. (7) On the seventeenth and eighteenth Libra. On the nineteenth, [twentieth and twenty-first Scorpio. On the twenty-second (8) [and] twenty-third [Sagitta]rius. On the twentyfourth and twenty-fifth Capricorn. On [the twentysixth], twenty-seventh and twenty-e[i]ghth, (9) Aquarius. On the twenty-ninth and thirtieth Pisces.


Column 2

(1) Adar On the first and the second Aries. On the third and the fourth Taurus. On the fif[th, sixth and seventh Gemini]. (2) On the eighth (and) ninth Canc[er. On the tenth and eleventh L]eo. On the twelfth, thir[teenth and fourteenth] (3) Vi[r]go. On the fifteenth and six[teenth Libra. On the seventeenth (and) eight[eenth Scorpio]. (4) On the [nin]eteenth, twentieth and twentyfirst Sagitt[arius. On the twenty-second] and twenty-thi[rd Capricorn. On the twenty-[fourth and twenty-fifth] (5) Aquarius. On the twenty-sixth, twenty-[seventh and twenty-eighth Pis[ces]. On the twenty-ni[nth, thirtieth and thirty-first] (6) Aries. [If] it thunders [on a day when the moon is in Taurus], (it signifies) [vain] changes in the wo[rld (?)...] (7) [and] suffering for the cities, and destru[ction in] the royal [co]urt and in the city of dest[ruction (?)...] (8) there will be, and among the Arabs... famine. Nations will plunder one ano[ther...] (9) If it thunders on a day when the moon is in Gemini, (it signifies) fear and distress caused by foreigners and by [...]

Back to Contents



46. A Physiognomic Text (4Q561)

This text belongs to a widespread type of divination especially well known from Graeco-Roman examples. Writers infer a person’s character from movements, gestures of the body, colour, facial expressions, the growth of the hair, the smoothness of the skin, the voice, idiosyncrasies of the flesh, the parts of the body, and the body as a whole. Ancient medicine in particular valued physiognomic signs.


Physiognomy was more important in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance than it was in antiquity, and has not yet fully died out. The Qumran text is unfortunately so fragmentary that it is impossible to specify how many individuals it describes or whether its evaluations are ultimately positive or negative.


Enough remains, however, to get some feel for the text’s concerns. It is apparently related to another, previously published, Hebrew work from Qumran, 4Q 186.



Column 1 (Fragments 1-4)

(1)... his... will be mixed and not numerous. Hi[s] eyes (2) will be intermediate between light and dark. His nose will be long (3) and attractive and his teeth will be even. His beard (4) will be sparse [and] not luxuriant. His limbs (5) will be [b]lotch[y, partially mal]formed and partially thick... (7) (his) elbows strong... (8) broad and his thighs [will be neither thin] (9) nor thick. The soles of [his] feet... (10) to[ng]. His foot... (12) [to] finish... (14) his shoulder... his [sp]irit (15)... they will be... narrowness (16)... and will not be large... thick hairs


Column 2

(1) [His] voice will be... (3) will [n]ot be extended... (4) The hair of his beard will be lu[xuriant]... (5) will be neither thick nor [thin...] (6) And they will be small... (7) His nails will be somewhat thick... (8) As for his height...

Fragment 6

(2)... be reddish... (3) [cl]ear and will [be] round... (4) the hair of his head...

Back to Contents



47. An Amulet Formula Against Evil Spirits (4Q560)

The discovery of this text among the Dead Sea Scrolls is significant not least because it is the earliest known Jewish example, antedating its closest rivals for that honour by several centuries. It is not clear whether this text was part of a larger scroll used as a kind of ‘recipe book’ by a scribe or magician, or whether it was wrapped up and placed in a case.


The reader will also note the several uncertainties in the Translation. In part the difficulties arise from the genre of these texts - they intentionally use strange or unusual vocabulary. Many such texts use previously unknown words. The other major difficulty of this text is its broken condition; if we had more context we could gain an improved understanding of several points.

This kind of conjuring or incantation is known in apocryphal literature like the Book of Tobit (Chapters 6, 8, and 11) and the Book of Enoch (Chapter 7), both of which are extant in fragments at Qumran. The Mishnah (San. 7:7), like the Old Testament, specifically condemns it. We have already seen how Josephus considered the magicians, imposters and religious frauds (among whom he would clearly include some of the ‘prophets and teachers’ pictured in Acts) more dangerous even than the revolutionaries.

Apparently, in his time, this kind of knowledge and activity was ascribed, like so much bearing on the provenance of Secret Wisdom, to Solomon, and he actually gives us a picture of such a person (Ant. 8.45-9). He describes how a ‘countryman’ of his named Eleazar in ‘the presence of Vespasian and his sons’ cured men possessed of demons by putting a ring having under its seal roots prescribed by Solomon under their noses ‘and reciting that he (Solomon) had composed it’.


To prove to Vespasian, who according to Suetonius was very susceptible to these kinds of superstitions, that he had this power, he instructed the demon to turn over a basin of water which he had left a little way off for this purpose when it departed. It did.

It was a group of people like this around Vespasian, including Josephus and interestingly enough Philo’s nephew, Tiberius Alexander, who seem to have convinced Vespasian by ‘signs and wonders’ of this kind - particularly curing the lame and making the blind see - that he was the real ‘Star’ called from Palestine to rule the world. For Acts 4:6 Tiberius Alexander appears as a persecutor of so-called ‘Christians’.


Josephus describes him as a turncoat and an apostate from Judaism (War 2.220), and Vespasian left him behind to help his somewhat impetuous son Titus as general in charge of the siege that ended in the destruction of the Temple.

Exorcisms and conjuring of this kind were also very popular activities in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.



Fragment 1

Column 1

(1)... heart... (2) a new mother, the punishment of those giving birth, a command (of) evil... (3) the male poisoning demon and the female poisoning-demon (is forbidden) [to] enter the body... (4) [(I adjure you) by the Name of He who for]gives sins and transgression, O fever and chills and heartburn (5) [...and forbidden to disturb by night in dreams or by day] in sleep, the male PRK-demon and the female PRK-demon, those who breach (?)... Fragment 1 Column 2 (2)... before h[im...] (4) before him and... (5) and I adjure you, O spirit... (6) 1 adjure you, O spirit ... (7) upon the earth, in the clouds...

Back to Contents



48. The Era Of Light Is Coming (4Q462)

This narrative evidently takes as its starting point the prophecy given by Noah in Gen. 9:25-27:

‘Cursed be Canaan; he shall be his brothers’ meanest slave... Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem... May God make space for Japheth, and let him live in the tents of Shem.’

Shem, of course, was understood as the ancestor of the Jews, while his brothers were regarded as the ancestors of neighbouring peoples. Noah’s words, which were read as prophecy, probably relate to the Davidic period. They predict the ultimate supremacy of the Jews over their neighbours, an inspiring thought in any time of oppression.

The text could have been placed in Chapter 2 under Prophets and Pseudo-Prophets, but because of its unclear attribution, we place it here. It should be read as a kind of ‘Holy History’. Beginning with prophecy, it moves on to judgement, a judgement centred, it seems, on Jerusalem. Lines 6-8, ‘The Lord is the Ruler... to Him alone belongs the sovereignty’, are noteworthy in the light of similar slogans attributed by Josephus to ‘Zealot’ revolutionaries who proliferated before and during the period of the uprising against Rome (AD 6670).

As Josephus describes them, these refused to call any man ‘Lord’ and seem to have rallied to a cry that can be characterized by the words ‘no king but God’, i.e. ‘God rules here, not man’ (Ant 18.23). As a result, they refused to submit to the rule of distant Caesars or, for that matter, to pay the tax required of them, which, as we saw in relation to the Testament of Kohath in Chapter 5, consequently became a burning issue throughout the whole of the first century. Needless to say, they would probably not have deigned to call any Messianic leader ‘Lord’ either.

In this text, we find the usual imagery of ‘Light’ and ‘Darkness’, (the former now tied to the coming, obviously, of the Eternal ‘Kingdom’), ‘Glory’, ‘Judgement’, etc. If the reconstruction is correct, the Noahic prophecy is fulfilled with Israel (Jacob) subjecting the Canaanites to forced labour (5), whatever may have been meant by this. The reference from Line 13 onwards to a second captivity in or by the hand of Egypt, coupled with Jerusalem’s downfall, is puzzling, particularly as it seems also to relate to ‘Philistines’.

Technically, the text seems aware that Egyptians were considered ‘sons of Ham’ and that the Philistines, though they were also reckoned as ‘sons of Ham’ in Gen. 10, were actually ‘sons of Japhet’ or ‘Mycenean Greeks’. This is borne out by archaeological data. In this regard, the text does allow ‘the Kittim’ of Qumran usage as sons of ‘Javan’ (Greece) too.


It is therefore possible that the history we have before us relates to the pre-Maccabean suppression of Jerusalem by Ptolemies from Egypt and Seleucid Greeks from Syria. On the other hand, we may have a veiled reference, of the kind in the War Scroll to ‘the Kittim of Egypt’ and ‘the Kittim of Assyria’, to Roman legions from Egypt and Syria at the time of siege of Jerusalem.

However these things may be, the text ends with the usual promise, certainly comforting to the nationalistically minded, that God would not forget Jerusalem and that her humiliation would be manifoldly repaid. This is directly paralleled in texts like the last columns of the Habakkuk Pesher or the Hymns of the Poor above.


While envisaging the probable destruction of Jerusalem by the Kittim, Hab. xii.2-4 concludes that ‘on the Day of judgement (.sic) God would destroy from off the earth all idolators (i.e. the nations) and Evil People’.



Fragment 1

(1) Ham and Japheth... (2) to Jacob and he said... And he remembered... (3) [to give to Israel... Then they said... (4) They went [dress]ed in fine raiment because... (5) [And He gave the sons of Canaan] to Jacob as slaves. In love... (6) [He] gave it (the land) to the Many for an inheritance. The Lord is the Ruler... (7) His Glory which (comes) from (the) One fills the waters and the [land.]... (8) To Him alone belongs the Sovereignty. With Him was the Light; with them (the Angels of Darkness?) and upon us was [the Darkness.]... (9) [He will end the Er]a of Darkness, and the Era of Light is coming, when they (the Angels of Light?) will reign forever. Therefore, [they] said... (10) to Israel, because He was in our midst. In the spring Jac[ob went down to Egypt...](11) [upo]n them, and they were put to forced labor, but they were preserved. They cried out to the Lord... (12) And behold, they were given unto Egypt a second time, at the end of the Kingdom, but they were preserv[ed... (13) And He gave the Holy City into the hand of the inhabit]ants of Philistia and Egypt to spoil and ruin her. [They tore down] her pillars... (14) [She (Jerusalem) ex]changed (her loyalty), exalting Evil, so she will receive the poll[ution of her sins]...(15) and her defiance, so she was hated. In her beauty, her jewelry and her clothing... (16) that which she did to herself. A son of the pollution of Ev[il...] (17) her hatred as she was before she was rebuilt .... (18) But God remembered Jerusalem...

Back to Contents


49. He Loved His Bodily Emissions (A Record of Sectarian Discipline - 4Q477) (Plate 24)


This text was evidently meant to be the kind of record the Mebakker or Bishop was supposed to keep, as mentioned in the last column of the Damascus Document above, and columns in the extant text, which no doubt preceded it, concerning disciplinary actions and such like ‘in the camps’. The presence of one of these records here among the corpus from Qumran not only proves such records were kept, but provides an astonishingly vivid eye-witness testimony to the life that was led in these desert communities preparing for ‘the last days’ or the ‘time of the end’.


Also impressive is the consistency of its vocabulary with what we have been witnessing throughout these texts. The mindset is fixed, the vocabulary certain, even in mundane or trivial texts and records of this kind.

For these purposes the reference to ‘soul’ in Line 1.2 has its implications. We have already analysed allusions to this important notation, both in the last Chapter and in this one. It is, of course, widespread in the published Hymns and the Hymns of the Poor above. It is usually used in conjunction with allusions to the Ebionim, ‘Anavim and Zaddikim - ‘the Poor’, ‘the Meek’, and ‘the Righteous’.


It is also used in the Habakkuk Pesher to describe the retribution visited on the Wicked Priest for his destruction of the Righteous Teacher and members of his community. It is used in the last column of the Damascus Document with regard to the person who has not confirmed his attachment to ‘the Torah of Moses’ and ‘rejected the Foundations of Righteousness’.


Its use in a crucial section of the Damascus Document to delineate an attack on ‘the soul of the Righteous’/’Righteous One’ and his associates is particularly important. In life-threatening situations like these, and probably related ones in the two collections of Hymns, it probably meant something like ‘inner being’ or ‘being’ - even the very life of the individual or individuals involved.


In the disciplinary text before us - and it is only a disciplinary text, not an expulsion one - we have the usual allusion to ‘rebellion’ in Line 1.4, no doubt against ‘the Laws of Moses’. The allusion to ‘rebellion’, of course, is as always a negative one. We have seen it in relation to Hyrcanus’ ‘rebellion’ - probably against his brother Aristobulus - in the Aemilius/ Priestly Courses text above.


We have seen it throughout these texts when considering the rebellion of ‘the sons of Darkness’; we have seen it, too, in the rebellion against God highlighted at the beginning of both the Habakkuk Pesher and the Damascus Document, and it is no doubt seen as including the rebellion of individuals like the Lying Spouter against the Law.


There is even in this context the usual allusion to ‘Light’, and in Line 2. 1 the implication that what we have to do with here is a ‘knowing’ infraction of some kind, not an inadvertent one of the kind alluded to at the beginning of the last column of the end of the Damascus Document and at length in Column vii of the Community Rule.

The allusion to ‘the camps of the Many’ (1. 3) is also of moment in tying this text to the last column of the Damascus Document and the activities of the Mebakker or ‘Bishop’ there, who is described as record such infractions and who controls these wilderness ‘camps’ generally. The reference to ‘the Many’ with regard to these camps also happens to solve another problem raised above. This is why having all the texts at our disposal was so imperative for the critical historian, though perhaps not for the philologist, i.e. someone concerned with the Translation of a single manuscript only.

It will be recalled that the term ‘Many’ was also used to describe ‘the Priest commanding the Many’ in the last column of the Damascus Document. But the Mebakker or Bishop is clearly described in Columns xiii-xiv of the published Cairo Damascus Document as being in absolute charge of ‘the camps’; therefore our problem concerning the identity of the two is solved. If the desert ‘camps’ are ‘the camps of the Many’ alluded to in passing in this text, then the Priest Commanding the Many and the Mebakker / Bishop commanding the camps are the same.


Again, the references in early Church literature to James as ‘Bishop of the Jerusalem Community’ and ‘high priest’ are not irrelevant. It is also vivid testimony of the fact of the existence of the ‘camps’. Here are actually two people who lived in them the ‘inhabitants of the camps’ so vividly alluded to in the last column of 4QD, ‘Hananiah Nitos’ and ‘Hananiah ben Shim’... (presumably Shim’on or Shemaiah). Moreover, the rank and file of these ‘camps’ were actually referred to as ‘the Many’. This is extremely moving, absolutely immediate testimony.

Again we have an allusion to ‘the Spirit of Radiance’ of the kind seen in more ecstatic texts like the Son of Righteousness (Proverbs), the Chariots of Glory, and the Mystery of Existence in Chapters 5 and 7. The allusion in Line 6 of the second column to ‘turning aside’ is also common in documents like the Damascus Document or the Community Rule, particularly when it comes to ‘turning aside’ from the Law or ‘wandering astray in a trackless waste without a Way’. Such references are omnipresent.

The allusion to ‘reproved’ in Line 9 (‘reprove’ in Line 2 Column 1) is not the same as ‘expel’ in more serious excommunications pronounced in 4QD above, the Community Rule, ii and the Chariots of Glory. The offenses treated in this record are not capital or excommunicable ones, but rather more in the nature of those listed in 1QS, vii or CD, xii-xv, presumably preceding 4QD.


The allusion recapitulates one already encountered in Jacob’s ‘reproving’ Reuben in the Genesis Florilegium’s presentation of Reuben’s violation of his father’s bedroom arrangements. This is a record of ‘picayune’ disciplinary ‘acts’ kept by the Mebakker in his role presumably as ‘Priest commanding the camps’ in the last days.

In Latin usage, the word ‘acts’ related to real administrative records kept by officials like governors, procurators and the like. Eusebius, for instance, in Ecclesiastical History 1.9.3 reveals that he knows about ‘acts’ circulating under Pontius Pilate’s name in his own time - the 300s - purporting to be the real administrative records of that individual’s procuratorship. The ‘acts’ or records we have before us in this disciplinary text are real administrative proceedings in contradistinction to some others of this genre, hence their thoroughly pedestrian and mundane tone.

Finally the allusion to loving one’s ‘bodily emissions’ recapitulates material about mourning and sexual matters in Purity Laws Type A in Chapter 6. It is completely in accord with the Qumran ethos as we have been following it. Reuben’s ‘reproval’ also had to do with sexual indiscretions. It is in accord with the Qumran concern not to ‘mix’ with such individuals, because ‘the Holy Angels were with them in their camps’ - again the reason for the camps themselves.


The allusion to the ‘Holy Angels being in the camps’ is to be found, as we have noted, in both the War Scroll and the Damascus Document - the former particularly with regard to keeping such impurities from the camp ‘from the time they (the Holy Ones of the Covenant) leave Jerusalem and march out to war until they return’.

Anyone who thought this scenario was a figment of the imagination of these writers must now think again. The finding of such a fragment here makes it undeniably real. The allusion to ‘mixing’ is of course interesting as well. It recapitulates allusions of this kind already discussed in the First Letter on Works Reckoned as Righteousness. In that document, this allusion primarily relates to Gentiles and ‘mixing’ with them, but in the War Scroll and Damascus Document it relates to mixing with ‘the sons of the Pit’ as well.


Of course all of these expressions relate to the ‘separation’ ideology we have encountered so repeatedly in these texts - ‘separating pure from impure’, part of the general ‘Temple pollution’ accusation, but also the general instructions to ‘separate from the sons of the Pit’ or ‘the majority of the people’ and ‘go out into the wilderness’ camps.



Column 1

(1)... the men of the... (2) their soul, and to reprove (3)... the camps of the Many,
concerning (4)... rebellion

Column 2

(1) to... (2) which... the Light, knowing[ly...] (3) the Many... Johanan ben... (4) he was short-tempered... his name... And also the Spirit of radience with... . (5) he...And Hananiah Nitos they reproved because he... (6) turned aside the Spirit of the Commun[ity from the Way], and also to mix the... (7) they repr[oved] [be]cause he... and also because he was not... (8) Furthermore, he loved his bodily emissions... (9) Hananiah ben Shim[... they reproved because...] (10) Furthermore, he loved...

Back to Contents



50. Paean Forking Jonathan (Alexander Jannaeus - 4Q448) (Plate 25)

This text completely disproves the Essene theory of Qumran origins at least as classically conceived. It was known for some 30 years, but once again mistranslated and misinterpreted. What is more incomprehensible, the dedication ‘to King Jonathan’ was missed completely. Once again, it demonstrates the need for open access to all texts and the deleterious effects of opening archives only to a small circle of people.

There were really only two King Jonathan’s in the history we have before us. These were Jonathan the brother of Judas Maccabee (c. 15 5 BC), and Alexander Jannaeus (d. 76 BC), whom we have referred to in various contexts above. Since the first probably never even was ‘king’ in the true sense and was never addressed in this manner, we are probably in the realm of the second. We have had occasion to speak of him throughout these texts, but particularly with regard to the Priestly Courses III/Aemilius Kills text in Chapter 4.

To have a text like this Paean, introduced by a dedicatory invocation or panegyric to him - in the words of the Paean itself, a Shir Kodesh or ‘Holy Song’/’Poem’ - is an historical treasure of high magnitude for the study of the Scrolls. Therefore we close our work with it and its interpretation. The fact that it was buried for so long, with the consequence that much of the debate concerning the state of affairs it addresses was misguided and misinformed, cannot be considered anything but reprehensible.

Ten years ago, one of the editors of this volume observed that Qumran had to be considered pro- Maccabean, i.e. pro Alexander Jannaeus or Jonathan and not anti. He concluded from 2 Macc 5:27’s picture of Judas and his nine companions out ‘in the hills’ eating nothing but plants ‘to avoid contracting defilement’, that the settlement might have been founded by the Maccabees to honour this ‘wilderness’ experience, not (as in normative Qumran scholarship, which in his view exhibited a definite anti-Maccabean bias) in opposition to them.

It should be noted that both Maccabee Books present the celebration they seem written to commemorate, Hanukkah, as a new Feast of Booths or Tabernacles in the wilderness when the Law was either first revealed or rededicated. This editor also noted Alexander Jannaeus’ second wilderness sojourn thereafter, when the latter and about 6,000 of his partisans fled to ‘the hills’ surrounding Jerusalem to resist Demetrius. This Graeco-Seleucid King had been invited into the country by the presumable party opposing Alexander, the Pharisees (War 1.92-5).

This invitation by the Pharisaic opponents of Alexander Jannaeus has to be considered a prototypical one for this party and the establishment Sadducees they eventually control. Later it is the Pharisee supporters of Hyrcanus II, presumably referred to disapprovingly in the text on Priestly Courses above, who sided with Pompey and the Scaurus mentioned in that text.


They are also presumably involved with Herod’s father Antipas, who aided the Roman troops in overwhelming Aristobulus’ supporters in the Temple. Josephus comments on the awe-inspiring impression that the zeal of these supporters of Aristobulus made on the Romans as they steadfastly went about their priestly duties in the Temple even as they were being slaughtered there. He also notes that it was the Pharisaic collaborators of the Romans who killed more of these priestly partisans of Aristobulus in the Temple than the Roman troops themselves (War 1. 148-50).

Josephus also describes two rabbis in the next generation, obviously meant to represent persons of the stature of Hillel and Shammai in Rabbinic tradition. He calls them ‘Pollio and Sameas’. During the events of 37 BC, they had advised the people to ‘open the gates to Herod’, when the latter supported by Mark Antony returned to Jerusalem and again stormed it, finally taking control for himself and his family (Ant. 15.2-3).


For this, Herod never stopped bestowing favours on Pollio and Sameas and their Pharisee supporters, while he had the other members of the previous Sanhedrin (i.e. the Sadducee dominated one) executed (Ant. 14.175-6). Contrary to popular notion, fostered by the heirs to that tradition over the first millennia, the Pharisee position they represented was not the popular one. Rather the people ignored it, as they seemed to do all such advice and typically supported the more nationalist one; so the popular position was pro-Maccabean, not vice versa, a position also exemplified in this Song of Praise to King Jonathan we have before us.


Finally, at the time of the uprising against Rome, led presumably by the kinds of forces exemplified in this literature, Josephus specifically notes that it was ‘the principal men of the Pharisees, the chief priests (i.e. Herodian Sadducees), and the men of power (the Herodians and their confederates - the intermediary for whom was a mysterious individual he refers to as ‘Saul’), who invited the Romans into the Jerusalem to put down the uprising, thus making the momentous events that subsequently transpired and the destruction of the Temple inevitable (War 2.411-18).


Josephus and Philo’s nephew Tiberius Alexander, among others, even presided over this destruction! There is another text at Qumran referring to these events, the Nahum Pesher from Cave 4. This text, whatever it may be interpreted to mean, was obviously written after the coming of ‘the Kittim’ into the country. It appears to refer to Demetrius, mentioned above, as well as ‘Antiochus’ (probably Epiphanes) at the time of the celebrated events of Judas Maccabee’s struggle with him, noting that ‘the Kittim’ came after the ‘Greeks’.


Therefore it must have been written in the Roman period, and the conclusion would appear to be that in this text, as in the Habakkuk and Psalm 37 Peshers related to it, ‘the Kittim’ refer to the Romans.

In traditional theories of Qumran origins, i.e. the Essene theory and its variations, Alexander Jannaeus is often considered perhaps the most likely candidate for the role of Wicked Priest referred to in these pesharim - either him or one of his equally zealous Maccabean predecessors, like Judas, Judas’ father Mattathias, his brother Jonathan, or even Alexander’s son Aristobulus, who was apparently mentioned in the Aemilius text. It was the aim of Maccabees, Zadokites, Christians and Qumran to gainsay this approach. The Paean to King Jonathan now vindicates this position, and supports the opposite.

Since the existence of this Paean came to light, as a result of the efforts of a young Israeli scholar, comments have been made attempting to come to grips with it, like, ‘a Sadducee must have joined the Community at Qumran’ or the like, mostly from persons trying to salvage the traditional Essene theory. Similar kinds of comments were made in earlier research about the War Scroll, that it was imaginary or allegorical; or about the Copper Scroll for similar reasons, that it was not a real list of the hiding places of Temple treasure. These are preposterous and completely miss the true ethos of the group we have before us.

This group is ‘Sadducee’, or perhaps even better (to get the nuance of the Hebrew) ‘Zadokites’. These are not Sadducees like those portrayed in the New Testament or Josephus. They are of a different stripe altogether. This is also borne out by texts like the two Letters on Works Righteousness in Chapter 6, as well now as the disciplinary text preceding this Paean above. This group was actually living out in the wilderness camps.

It is possible to call this group ‘Essenes’, but to do so one must redefine what one means by ‘Essenes’ to take into account its militant, nationalist, and resistance-minded ethos, which some would call ‘Zealot’. As we have been emphasizing, this group cannot have been anti-Maccabean; if anything it was pro-Maccabean.


The movement behind the literature at Qumran most likely commemorated the Maccabean ‘camp’ tradition (the ‘booths’ of the new Feast of Tabernacles in the wilderness). Alexander Jannaeus or other wilderness-fighting characters in the Maccabean tradition cannot have been ‘the Wicked Priest’. This is a contradiction in terms, and shows a complete failure to grasp the import of the materials before us.


Only an individual with Phariseeizing tendencies, like his more accommodating son Hyrcanus lI, discussed in some detail above, could have been referred to in such a manner. The few lines of this splendid little poem prove this proposition as nothing else can. The poem has some interesting characteristics. First it is a poem. We have called it a ‘Paean’ to take into account its laudatory praise of a great figure, as well as the ‘Holiness’ of the address, signalled in the first dedicatory line. Secondly, it is very old.


There is an apocryphal psalm on the top left of Plate 25 above it, which is in different handwriting and distinct from it. At the top of the Plate, too, to the right of this psalm is the scrawled term, again in different handwriting, ‘Hallelujah’ (praise the Lord). This phrase is found in later portions of the traditional Psalms, and its presence here further increases the sense of religious awe of the document.

The apocryphal psalm at the top of the document is usually referred to as Psalm 154. It is known in Syriac tradition and interestingly enough was attached to the psalms from Qumran found in Cave 11. However it is not found in the Bible. It is a panegyric, glorifying ‘the Many’, thoroughly in keeping with the Paean to King Jonathan attached on this parchment below it, and repelete with Qumranisms like ‘Hassidim’, ‘Zaddikim’, ‘the Upright’, ‘the Meek’, ‘his soul’, ‘a pleasing fragrance’ and anew formulation, ‘the Simple’, just encountered in the disciplinary text above.


A parallel to ‘the Poor’, it is found in similarly important contexts in the Habakkuk and Nahum Peshers. It is also probably paralleled in the Gospels’: ‘these little ones’ (Matt. 10:42, Mark 9:52, etc.). Whatever the role this psalm was to have played in this document, its familiar apocalyptic nationalism is completely in harmony with the ethos of Qumran and it may even have been composed there.

But it is upon the material at the bottom that our attention must focus. There the handwriting is informal and cursive, and the sense laudatory. The dedication comes in an actual nine-line poem in the margin at the right of the main body of material, set forth as Column 1 of our transcription. Each line contains two phrases, though a few contain three, and one evoking ‘Israel’, contains one. It appears to be complete and totally original, almost like Haiku poetry, except instead of 17 syllables, it contains 20 phrases.

This is followed by material in the lower half of Column 2 in the same hand. What we have here may have been some important collection of ‘poems’ or ‘Holy Songs’. They may even have been sung or sent as part of a laudatory dedication to King Jonathan himself. Or they may simply have been a private copy of something someone wanted to keep. It should be observed, however, that the Community shows not reticence in addressing this Alexander as ‘King’.


Many coins minted in this period bear the logo, ‘Jonathan the High Priest of the Jews’ (Yehudim). Those bearing the logo ‘King’ are generally in Greek and bear his Greek name ‘Alexander’. A few others bear the logo ‘the King Jonathan’, but reversed from this poem.

The reference in Line 3 of the first column to ‘the whole Community of Your People’ is interesting in that it reflects the similar terminology Qumran applies to itself, i.e. ‘the Community’. So is the fact that Line 5 recognizes the Jews as a diaspora people, inhabiting ‘the four winds’ as it were. However, the two references in Lines 8 and 9 with which the laudatory dedication closes are perhaps most interesting.


The reference to ‘perfection’ in Line 8, of course, recapitulates this terminology as we have been following it in this work. Strictly speaking, it is not exactly the word ‘Perfect’, but rather a parallel vocabulary allied to it meaning something like ‘complete’. The word Hever at the end of Line 9 is used on numerous Maccabean coins from this period, particularly those minted under Alexander Jannaeus.


It derives from the Hebrew root, ‘friend’, or, if one prefers, ‘brotherhood’. Jonathan is almost always saluted on coins using this phraseology as ‘the High Priest and Head of the Brotherhood (or Council or Sanhedrin) of the Jews’. We have chosen to render this word ‘Commonwealth’. Its presence in this text, coupled with fulsome praise for Alexander, accords with the coins from this period and increases the sense of the historical authenticity of the poem itself.

If the laudatory sense of the first column were not sufficiently clear, the laudatory sense of the second column, and, of course, the apocryphal poem above it, makes it even more so. It is difficult to imagine that at some point this group could have become disenchanted with King Jonathan, and the editors reject this position.

This column, as the reader can see, is more obscure, because less has survived. There is a reference to ‘love’, but the Translation of the word at the end of Line 2 ‘wine’ is puzzling in the context of the rest of the extant paean. The word could also be translated ‘Greece’, but this too would be difficult to understand in the context we have. Without further data, little more can be said about it. The ‘Commonwealth’ reference in the first column is repeated in Line 6 of the second, including an adulatory reference to ‘Kingdom’, presumably Jonathan’s. The constant reiteration of ‘name’, intended for the good of the monarch and a blessing is noteworthy.

In this context, the allusion in Line 2.4 to ‘visit’ is of interest. This is a term we have been following throughout the corpus from Qumran. We have seen it in the Messiah of Heaven and Earth text, referring to God ‘visiting the Hassidim’ or ‘calling the Zaddikim by name’. Here, too, whether by accident or intent, we have the ‘naming’ signification again. The allusion to ‘visiting’ also occurs, as we have seen, in i.6-7 of the Damascus Document.


There it relates to the evocation of the ‘root of Planting out of Aaron and Israel’, which God appears to have caused to grow ‘to inherit His land’. In the context of CD, the notion of ‘visiting’ can be taken to imply this first Messianic figure with roots in both the Davidic and the priestly traditions or backgrounds, who would then be the similar figure who ‘stands up’, ‘arises’, or ‘returns’ at the end of the document. It could also be taken to mean the Community itself. However this may be, the occurrence of this ‘visiting’ terminology in this Paean to Alexander is striking.

Finally there is the important reference in 2.7 to the ‘Joiners in the war’ or ‘joining the war’. Again the terminology is striking. It is used in a most important context in the exegesis of the Zadokite Covenant from Ezek. 44:15 in Column iv of the Cairo Damascus Document. It is possible to read the allusion in that prophecy to ‘the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok’ as a construct phrase with the sense of ‘the priests who were the Bnei-Zadok Levites’.


But the Damascus Document deliberately breaks this open in favour of its preferred exegesis. ‘Ands’ are added, so the prophecy now reads: ‘the priests and the Levites and the sons of Zadok’, all distinct categories, not descriptive of each other. This prepares the way for the exegesis to follow, which then identifies ‘the priests’ as ‘the penitents of Israel who went out in the wilderness’ and the ‘sons of Zadok’ in the well-known manner.


But the category ‘the Levites’ is not mentioned in the exegesis. Rather another word, our ‘Joiners’ (Nilvim) here evidently playing on the word ‘Levites’, is inserted. The interpretation then reads: ‘and the joiners with them’ - ‘them’, it will be remembered, being ‘the penitents of Israel... in the desert’. This is the term that reappears in this Paean to King Jonathan, but it is now tied to an additional phrase, missing in the Damascus Document, namely ‘the joiners in the war of or ‘those joining in the war of’. ‘In the war of is a significant addition, evoking at once the war-like ethos of this group and that war Jonathan seems to have been involved in against Demetrius, mentioned in the Nahum Pesher.


As it turns out, a variation of this terminology also appears in the Nahum Pesher, i.e. the verbal usage ‘join’. There it is attached to the ‘Simple’ notation just encountered, and linguistically linked to the expression ger-nilveh (‘resident alien’) - another variation of this usage - in the underlying text. The word ‘Nilvim’ actually appears in Esther 9:27, where it is used to refer to ‘Gentiles’ connecting themselves in some manner to the Jewish Community - therefore the sense of ‘join’/ ‘joining’, which plays on the word ‘Levites’ in the Damascus Document.


In this, it may even refer to some ‘associated’, albeit lesser, status, i.e. a cadre of God-fearing Gentiles associated with the Community. However this may be, the presence of this allusion in this Paean to King Jonathan, the nationalist sentiments of which are patent, with the additional evocation of being connected to war, is of no mean import.



Column 1

(1) A sacred poem (2) for King Jonathan (3) and all the Congregation of Your people (4) Israel, (5) who are (spread) in every (6) direction under Heaven, (7) may they all be well, (8) Perfect before You, (9) and a Commonwealth in Your Name

Column 2

(1) In Your love do I exalt... (2) in the day and in the evening, from wine (also possibly 'Greece')... (3) to draw near so as to be... (4) Visit them for a blessing, to... (5) upon Your Name which is proclaimed... (6) a Kingdom for Your Commonwealth... (7) the joiners in the war/joining the war of... (8) Your Name for a memorial...

Back to Contents




(45) Brontologion (4Q318)
Previous Discussions: Milik, Years, 42; idem, Books, 187; J. C. Greenfield and M. Sokoloff, 'Astrological and Related Omen Texts in Jewish Palestinian Aramaic', Journal of Near Eastern Studies 48 (1989) 202.

Photographs: PAM 43.374, ER 1368.

(46) Physiognomic Text (4Q561)
Previous Discussion: J. Starcky, 'Les quatre étapes du messianisme à Qumran', Revue Biblique 70 (1963) 503 note 66.

Photographs: PAM 43.598, ER 1545.

(47) An Amulet Formula Against Evil Spirits (4Q560)
Previous Discussions: None. The DSSIP lists the text as 'Proverbs? at', but the text is certainly an incantation.

Photographs: PAM 43.574 and 43.602, ER 1522 and 1549.

(48) The Era of Light is Coming (4Q462)
Previous Discussion: M. Smith, '4Q462 (Narrative) Fragment 1: A Preliminary Edition', Revue de Qumran 15 (1991) 55-77.

Photographs: PAM 43.546, ER 1495.

(49) He Loved his Bodily Emissions (A Record of Sectarian Discipline 4Q477)
Previous Discussion: None.

Photographs: PAM 43.562, ER 1510.

(50) Paean for King Jonathan (Alexander Jannaeus) (4Q448)
Previous Discussion: A. Rabinovich, 'A Prayer for King Yonaton', Jerusalem Port Magazine (1992) 8, 9-11.

Photographs: PAM 41.371 and 43.545, ER 266 and 1494.


Back to Contents