By April 14, 2008 Read More →

Women in the Temple Scroll, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1994.

The Temple Scroll sketches out an ideal paradigm for holiness in the present, premessianic era. It is probable that this text was not composed entirely by the Qumran sect, for it depends heavily on sources derived from Sadducean circles and differs in many respects from the Qumran sectarian corpus. Nonetheless, it reflects a way of thinking quite close to that of the sectarians, who preserved it and most probably edited it. Certainly, this text assumes marriage, sexual relations, and childbirth as part of its ideal society. Because women are potentially agents for either sanctification or defilement, they are the focus of legislation in this scroll. The selected laws that follow demonstrate once again how basic the institution of marriage is to the social fabric of a document which was cherished by the sect.

Several laws deal with prohibited and permitted marriages. In the case of marriage between a man and his niece, the Temple Scroll is stricter even than the legislation of the Torah-

A man may not marry his brother’s daughter or his sister’s daughter, for it is an abomination.
(TEMPLE SCROLL 66-15–17)

According to Leviticus 18-12–13, a man is prohibited from marrying his aunt; the Temple Scroll reasons that if a woman may not marry her nephew, then a man may not marry his niece. This very same ruling appears in the Zadokite Fragments (5-7–11), as previously mentioned. However, the Rabbis allowed a man to marry his niece and even encouraged it. But the Temple Scroll agrees with the Qumran sectarians, Samaritans, early Christians, and Karaites in forbidding such marriages.
The scroll also deals with the various ritual purity rules and their relevance to women. It is extremely strict in separating menstrually impure women from the community at large-

In each and every city you shall set aside places for . . . women when they are in their period of impurity and when they have given birth, so that they not defile in them (the cities) during their period of impurity. (TEMPLE SCROLL 48-14–17)

During a woman’s “period of impurity,” she was forbidden to enter cities. In order to enter the Temple City, she had to undergo purification rituals beforehand.

In the Second Temple, described by Josephus and the Mishnah, women were permitted to enter the outer of the two Temple courts. In the ideal Temple described in this scroll, the Temple would be surrounded by three courts instead of two; women who were ritually pure would be permitted into only the outer of the three courts. Thus, in the actual Second Temple, and later in rabbinic halakhah, women were permitted physically nearer the holy area where priestly ritual was performed than they were in the ideal sanctuary described in the Temple Scroll. As in the case of women, men too were moved one court outward, permitted to enter only into the middle court rather than into the closer inner court of the actual Second Temple.

Concern with female purity also expresses itself in another passage, which deals with captive women who have been acquired in war. Like Deuteronomy 21-1–9, the Temple Scroll allows a soldier to bring home a woman captured from the enemy and to marry her, but he must cut her hair, pare her nails, give her new clothes, and offer her the opportunity to mourn her parents. The Temple Scroll adds-

Afterward, you may have sexual relations with her, and she shall be your wife. But she may not touch your pure food for seven years. Nor shall she eat a whole-offering until seven years pass; then she shall eat (it). (TEMPLE SCROLL 63-10–15)

Like the Zadokite Fragments and Rule of the Community, the Temple Scroll excludes from contact with the pure food a person who is regarded as impure. A non-Jewish wife is not allowed to partake of the pure foods for a period of seven years. Although this time frame is different from that which applied to a novice seeking admission into the sect, the concept is the same. Only those who were full members of the community had access to the pure food. Note, however, that there is no distinction made here between solid and liquid food, in contrast to the distinction made in the system of sectarian initiation.

The special section of the Temple Scroll known as Law of the King maintains especially strict marital regulations for the king- He may not marry more than one woman. She must be a Jewish woman of his own clan. He may not divorce her and remarry as long as she lives; however, he may remarry if she dies.

This scroll, then, certainly the largest halakhic text found in the scrolls corpus, assumes marriage and family, and it legislates on that assumption. In setting out an ideal plan for a future society, but not one that is messianic, the scroll expects that women and family will occupy their natural place. Whether this document was edited in the sectarian community or imported from a related but different group, it is obvious that its readers must have felt no discomfort about the society described here; it was, as the Zadokite Fragments said, “the custom of the land” (Zadokite Fragments 7-6).

Pages 136-138

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