By April 14, 2008 Read More →

The Jerusalem of History, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1994.

The Dead Sea Scrolls
Although the Jerusalem most often mentioned in the scrolls is the city of Hasmonaean times, some texts allude to the Jerusalem of the First Temple period. Indeed, the destruction of the First Temple was still being mourned even after the Jews had replaced it with the Second Temple. Such a text is the Lamentation from cave 4, which adapts the biblical Book of Lamentations with explanatory expansions. In this text we hear of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (586 B.C.E.) and the end of its sacrifices as well as the suffering of the “children of Zion,” the inhabitants of the city. Jerusalem is depicted mourning the destruction of its suburbs. This text, not in any way peculiar to the Qumran sect, may express the nation’s general sorrow over the loss of the ancient glories of First Temple times. The pseudoprophetic texts mention Jews taken into captivity by the Babylonians (Pseudo-Ezekiel A 16 I 3–4) and the worship of other gods by “priests of Jerusalem” (Pseudo-Ezekiel C 3 III 5–7). The latter reference, however, may be an extrapolation by the author, reflecting his censure of the current priestly establishment.

The destruction of Jerusalem is also the theme of the cave 4 Consolations text, essentially a series of biblical passages, mostly from Isaiah, comforting the people of Israel and foretelling the future rebuilding of Zion. Because we find no sectarian elements in this text either, we can assume it reflects sentiments typical of the committed Palestinian Jew of Second Temple times. Also, the Halakhic Letter (C19) explicitly alludes to “the exile of Jerusalem” in the time of Zedekiah.

Yet despite the love for Jerusalem expressed in these texts, it is clear that members of the Qumran sect stood apart from the Jerusalem of their own times, since they regarded it as the seat of an illegitimate priesthood. Pesher Habakkuk states that-

the last priests of Jerusalem gather great wealth and property from the spoil of the nations. But in the End of Days their property will be delivered along with their spoil into the hands of the army of the Kittim. (PESHER HABAKKUK 9-4)

The Kittim are, of course, the Romans, whose imminent attack on Palestine, expected by the pesher, will signal the dawn of the End of Days. In that attack, the priests will pay their just penalty, losing all the wealth they have gathered by attacking non-Jews. Pesher Psalms (9 1–2) also alludes to the city’s impending destruction at the hands of the Kittim.

According to the fragmentary Pesher Micah (11 1), these are the same priests who had led the people astray. The continuation of the broken text would probably have contained a description of the priests’ punishment. It is likely that these are the priests described in Pesher Isaiah B (2 6–8) as the “men of scoffing who are in Jerusalem”-

those who despised the Torah of the Lord and reviled the word of the holy One of Israel. (ISAIAH 5-24)

And they were probably allied with the Wicked Priest, the archenemy of the Teacher of Righteousness.
Also centered in Jerusalem was another group inimical to the sect’s approach to Judaism- the “seekers of smooth things,” that is, the Pharisees. Their sobriquet can more precisely be understood as “those who derive false laws through interpretation.”

Almost the entire surviving portion of Pesher Nahum (3–4 1) refers to Jerusalem. According to the author, the holy city has become a dwelling place for gentiles. The author recounts the alliance of the Pharisees with the Seleucids under Demetrius III Eukerus (96–88 B.C.E.), who together attempted to overthrow the Hasmonaean Alexander Janneus (103–76 B.C.E.), the Lion of Wrath, and his council. The text makes specific reference to Janneus’s garrison in Jerusalem as well as to the large amounts of money accumulated by the “priests of Jerusalem,” no doubt a reference to the Sadducees described as wealthy elsewhere in the text.

Testimonia (21–30) and the Psalms of Joshua B (22 II 7–14) contain identical passages ascribed pseudepigraphically to Joshua. In this passage based on the canonical Joshua 6-26, Joshua foretells the rebuilding of Jericho and the disastrous consequences. There in the rebuilt city, a Hasmonaean ruler, whose identity has been widely debated-

will [spill bl]ood like water upon the barrier of the Daughter of Zion and in the precincts of Jerusalem. (TESTIMONIA 29)

This text reflects the sect’s generally negative views about the Hasmonaeans and their military exploits.

Pesher Habakkuk describes Jerusalem itself as-

the city in which the evil priest has undertaken abominable actions so as to render the Temple impure. (PESHER HABAKKUK 12-7)

Here is a clear reference to Hasmonaean Jerusalem and its polluted Temple.

Thus, although sectarians continued to mourn the Destruction of the First Temple as did their fellow Jews in this period, they regarded the contemporary city, together with its priestly government and its Temple, as anathema. Yet an exceptional passage mentions the Jerusalem of this period in a positive context. Pesher Micah 10 4–7 interprets “Jerusalem,” mentioned in Micah 1-5, as referring to the Teacher of Righteousness and the sect who will be saved from the final destruction. Indeed, although sectarians condemned virtually every feature of the Jerusalem of their times, they continued to place the city at the center of their halakhic and eschatological ideals.

Pages 385-387

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