Ben Sira and the Qumran Literature, Manfred Lehmann, Revue de Qumran 3 (1961), p.103-116.


Ben Sira, Cairo Genizah

Ben Sira, Cairo Genizah. By Herman Pijpers – The book of Ben Sira, CC BY 2.0,

Shortly after the first Dead Sea Scrolls became known to the scholarly world, Professor Albright stated (1): «The content of the new documents fits satisfactorily into the picture of Jewish literature in the Maccabean Age, which we have from the pseudoepigraphical literature . . . The undoubted fact that there are expressions and terms which would not hitherto have been dated so early . . . is to be explained very simply from the almost complete absence of any extant Hebrew documents from the Maccabean Age.»  This statement, made eleven years ago, preceded a mass of publications which has attempted to trace affinities and influences connecting the Qumran literature with other known contemporary texts. However, in the opinion of the present writer, not enough attention has been paid the only apocryphical work extant in its original Hebrew, namely the Book of Ben Sira. This book, although of pre-Maccabean date, represents an age which was also historically important in the formation of the Qumran community. In 1955 Professor Burrows minimized the possibility of any links between Ben Sira and the Qumran literature (2). The present study is based on a paper already begun in 1950 and delivered in 1955 before the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, illustrating the interrelationship between these bodies of literature. At that time the very question of the authenticity of the Hebrew Genizah text of Ben Sira was still in question. However, it was obvious to the writer that the presence of close parallels in terminology and phraseology would be important evidence in favor of the originality of the Genizah text of Ben Sira. Such a study, therefore, would be fruitful for the study of both Ben Sira and the Qumran literature.

Meanwhile, fortunately, the discovery of Ben Sira fragments in Cave 2 has vindicated both the champions of the originality of the Genizah text of Ben Sira and the contention that Ben Sira was known to the men of Qumran. The 2Q texts are being edited by M. Baillet and are now awaiting early publication. According to his preliminary report (3) and J. T. Milik’s published observations (4) as well as private communications from M. Baillet and R. de Vaux, these fragments contain the ending words of Ben Sira 6, 20–31, in the same wording and arrangement of hemistiches as the « B » manuscript of the Cairo Genizah. Discovery of further Ben Sira texts in the Qumran area can be predicted with almost complete certainty.

We may, at this point, suggest another—albeit indirect—link between Ben Sira and recently discovered Qumran texts. The Biblical text of 4 Q Samuela mentions that Samuel was a Nazir, in its rendition of 1 Samuel 1, 22. Similarly, Ben Sira 46, 23 (5) describes Samuel as a Nazir. The same tradition is also found in the Mishnah (Nazir IX, 6), נזיר היה שמואל, although not without running into objections from at least one rabbinic authority. Since neither Ben Sira nor the Qumran text of the Biblical passage were recognized by the rabbis, we can now understand their difficulty in proving Samuel’s nazirship (6).

Our examination of the interrelationship between Ben Sira and the Qumran literature will now concern itself with the internal evidence of the texts. Despite the obvious differences in religious mood and outlook on life differentiating Ben Sira from the men of Qumran, there are occasional points of contact in philosophy:


B.S. 3, 19.20                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 1 QH VII, 32

ומה הוא איש תהו ובעל הבל להתבונן במעשי פלאך                                  פלאות ממך אל תדרוש . . . במה שהורשית התבונן

B.S. 11, 5                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             1 QS XI, 20

ומה אפהואה בן האדם במעשי פלאכה                                                     כי פלאות מעשי ה’ ונעלם מאדם פעלו

B.S. 11, 9                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 QS VII, 9

ולמדבר בתוך דברי רעהו                                                                    ובתוך שיחה אל תדבר


The pre-battle liturgy quoted in 1 Q Milhamah offers especially rich comparative material. The introduction of a reference to David’s fight with Goliath brings the Qumran liturgy into a direct line of Jewish tradition which can be traced from Ben Sira to the Mishnah. Although the Ben Sira passage is part of a grandiose historic panorama preceding the description of the Yom Kippur ritual, its terms may have been taken from a battle liturgy, which becomes plausible when compared with the 1 Q Milhamah text:


B.S. 47, 4. 5. 6. 9. 10

בנעוריו הכה גבור ויסר חרפת עולם בהניפו ידו על קלע וישבר תפארת גלית כי קרא אל אל עליון . . . ומסביב הכניע צר ויתן בפלשתים עדים

1 QM., XI, 1–3

ואת גולית הגתי איש גבור חיל הסגרת ביד דויד עבדך כיא בטח בשמכה הגדול . . . ואת פלשתיים הכנ[יע] פעמים רבות בשם קודשכה


The use of this incident in battle liturgies is clearly attested in 1 Macchabées 4, 30, where the following benediction is quoted: «Blessed art thou, O Savior of Israel, who didst quell the onset of the mighty man by the hand of thy servant David, and didst deliver the army of the Philistenes into the hands of Jonathan . . .» We, incidentally, also find the Goliath incident in the so called Syriac Apocryphical Psalms: «And I went forth against the Philistene, he cursed me by his idols, but I drew his sword, and severed his head, and thus removed disgrace from the children of Israel» (7).

Final codification of the battle liturgy is found in the Mishnah (Sotah VIII, 1) where, again, the Goliath incident is given prominent mention: ?

פלשתים באו בנצחונו של גלית, מה היה סופו לסוף נפל בחרב ונפלו עמו . . . הן באים בנצחונו של בשר ודם ואתם באים בנצחונו של מקום.

We would perhaps not be justified in linking Ben Sira with this chain of battle liturgies, if we could not at the same time point to an entire Ben Sira chapter which, in this writer’s opinion, abounds with parallels to 1 Q Milhamah.

Ben Sira 33, 1–17 can, in the light of the four battle prayers in 1 Q Milhamah (X, 1–XII, 17; XIII, 2–XIV, 1; XIV, 4–XV, 2 and XVIII, 6–14), now be recognized as a full-fledged battle liturgy, which in some manner influenced the Qumran author, or else paraphrases a common source for both texts.

Ben Sira 32, 19–24 precedes and introduces the battle prayer by referring to the divine power to destroy the wicked in battle (v. 20 עד ימחץ מתני אכזרי ולגוים ישיב נקם; cf. 1 QM XII, 10 מחץ גוים), and His people’s rejoicing at His victory (v. 23ושמחם בישועתו ; cf. 1 QMXIII, 13נשמחה ביד גבורתכה ונשישה בישועתכה). The prayer which follows in chapter 33 asks God to lift His hand against the enemy (v. 2 הניף ידך על עם נכר; cf. 1 QM XVII, 9 עד יניף ידו) so that they may see His great deeds (v. 2 גבורותיך; cf. 1 QM X, 9 וכגבורותכה), to bring about Gods sanctification (v. 3כאשר נקדשת לפניהים ; cf. 1 QM XI, 15 ולהתקדש לעיני שאר הגוים), and to bring Him honor (v. 3 הכבד; cf. 1 QM XI, 8 להכבד). The prayer goes on to ask for strength (v. 5 ואמץ זרוע וימין; cf. 1 QM XIV, 7 ואמוץ מתנים) to humble the enemy (v. 6 והכניע צר; cf. 1 QM XVII, 5 (להכניע ולהשפיל שר ממשלת רשעה. Next, it invokes somewhat cryptically the terms קץ and מועד. However, these terms occupy innumerable times in the 1 QM battle prayer and their meaning in this context can only be understood through further examination of the meaning of the Qumran text. As in 1 QM XI, 10 (ונכאי רוח תבעיר כלפיד אש בעמיר). Ben Sira, 33, 8 prays for the enemy’s destruction by fire (ובאף אש יאכל שריד). The Qumran battle prayer quotes Numeri 24, 17–19 as of the central portions of its liturgy. It is apparent that Ben Sira, too, is drawing on this Biblical text: v. 8 שריד (Numeri, 24, 19), v. 9 פאתי מואב (Numeri 24, 17). There follows in Ben Sira a prayer for Israel, especially Jerusalem. In the four Qumran battle prayers the portion referring to Zion is repeated twice (columns XII et XIX), and it is here that we reach the nearest proximation between the two texts:


B.S. 33, 13                                                                                          1 QM XII, 11; XIX, 4

מלא ארצכה כבוד ונחלתבה ברכה                                                                         מלא ציון את הודך ומכבודך את היכלך


(Ben Sira 36, 12 equates קריה with Jerusalem, just as is found in Qumran exegesis: 1 Q Pesher Habacuc XII, 7 הקריה הית ירושלם). In the closing lines, Ben Sira refers to his prayer as a תפלה; similarly, 1 QM XV, 5 refers to the battle prayers as תפלת מועד המלחמה.

The most valuable result of our observations is that we can now say with certainty that the hymn in 1 QM XII, 9–XIX, 2 is not at all an ode to the «mighty warrior» but a prayer to God! This is proven by the introductory line in Ben Sira (35, 19) where God is referred to as a גבור! This marks a complete departure from all hitherto published translations.

This is not an isolated case of a closely-knit oral tradition expressed again in similar terminology. We shall in this study attempt to trace several instances where only a strong oral tradition can explain amazingly similar thoughts and expressions (8). The field of prayers and liturgical texts offers the best examples for comparisons. A very clear connection between Ben Sira and the Qumran texts is found in the Hodayot formula:


1 QH III, 19                                                                                                                              B.S. 51, 1.2.3

אודך אלהי אבי . . . כי                                                                                                                      אודכה אדוני כי

פדית ממות נפשי                                                                                                                              פדיתה נפשי

חשכת בשרי משחת                                                                                                                           משחת

ומיד שאול הצלת נפשי                                                                                                                      ומשאול אבדון


The existence of an extensive Jewish thanksgiving liturgy long before the canonization of the Jewish prayers is attested in the Talmud (9). A wide flexibility in formulation of prayers was traditionally encouraged, provided a fixed outline was observed, and certain prescribed elements were incorporated. From the Ben Sira and Qumran parallel quoted above, it may be inferred that thanksgiving psalms had a fixed introductory formula: ,אודך אדני/אלהי כי . . . but that the rest of the psalms could be composed in conformity with the applicable situation.

A similar pattern was established at a very early state for the central prayer, the ’Amidah or Tefillah, consisting of 18 (later 19) benedictions. The first of these, ברכת אבות, contains references to God as the God of the patriarchs and His covenant of loving kindness with them. The final chapters of Ben Sira constitute a liturgical text, which is introduced by an extended section called “The Praise of the Fathers” שבח אבות עולם.  This section enumerates the patriarchs and other outstanding Biblical personalities, always stressing the bond (ברית) of loving kindness (חסד) existing between them and God. This section, since it is followed by various liturgical passages which have parallels in the ’Amidah, can therefore properly be called an enlarged ברכת אבות.

Following the same pattern, Qumran prayers are found with introductory references to the covenant of loving kindness of old between God and His people:


1 QM XIV, 4 ברוך אל ישראל השומר חסד לבריתו

1 QM XVIII, 6.7 ים . . . ובריתכה שמרתה לנו מאז[   ] ברוך שמכה אל

1 QH x, 13 (10) ברוך אתה אדוני אל הרחמים [השומר] חסד


This pattern was logically used by the early Christians as well, as is attested by Paul (2 Corinth. 1, 3) and by the Apostolic Constitution (VII, 3).

Significant parallels in the Yom Kippur liturgy will be discussed in a separate paper.

The background of the 19th benediction (ברכת המינים) directed against the heretics may perhaps be traced through parallels in terminology in Ben Sira and Qumran texts. This blessing was composed by Samuel the Little, who was selected for this task perhaps for his well-known piety (Talmud Babli: Berakot 29 a; Ta’anit 25 b; Sofah 48 b; Sanhedrin 11 a). The text of this benediction has been subject to more variations than the standard text of the original 18 benedictions. We shall here render some Ben Sira and Qumran parallels to the outstanding components found in the major versions (I. Beer, ‘Abodat Israel, latest printing Berlin, 1937; Siddur, ed. Slavita, 1804, and Siddur, ed. Avignon, 1767).


אל תהי תקוה: כי אין לו תקוה (B.S. 38, 24) לאין תקוה (1 QH III, 27)

רשעה:1 QM I, 6 et al.

זדים: במלחמת זדים (1 QH I, 6 et. al) זר (B.S. 12, 7)

יאבדו: ורבים יובדו (4 Qp Ps 37, line 21) האביד (B.S. 46, 9) אבדו (C.D. III, 9)

אויבים: להשמיד אויב במלחמת אל (1 QM IX, 5)

יכרתו: יכרת (B.S. 41, 15) יכרתו (C.D. VIII, 49) יכרתו (4 Qp Ps 37, line 37)

מלכות זדון: אנשי זדון (B.S. 15, 7) שבט זדון (B.S. 35, 21) וחדל זדון (1QH frag. III, 14)

ותמגר: כמים מגורים (1 QH IV, 34) איש זדון (frag. 45, 5)

ותכניע: הכניע צר (B.S. 47, 9) והכניע צר (B.S. 36, 6) להכניע רשעה (1 QM I, 6)

ותכלם: וכלה לכול גוי רשעה (1 QM XV, 2)

ותשפילם ותכניעם: להכניע ולהשפיל שר ממשלת רשעה (1 QM VIII, 5)

The common vocabulary may lead to two conjectures: either this benediction was borrowed from a liturgy used by sects such as the Qumran community who had coined it against those considered heretics by members of the sect, or else was wholly composed by normative Jews, but using sectarian terminology as a subtle allusion to the sect as the target of the text.

Appellations for the virtuous and the wicked are often strikingly similar in Ben Sira and the Qumran texts, as illustrated by a few examples (11).

Some additional idiomatic comparisons will illustrate philological affinities between the Ben Sira and Qumran literature:

סגר this root, in the Niphal, has the meaning of “surrender, deliver” which only exceptionally occurs in Biblical Hebrew (1 Samuel 17, 46; 24, 19), but never in Mishanic or Talmudic Hebrew. Note, however,


B.S. 4, 20 ואסגירנו לשדדים

1 Q Book of  Mysteries בהסגר מולדי עולה

1 QM XI, 2 ואת גולית . . . הסגרתה ביד דויד

1 QM XI, 13 כיא ביד אביונים תסגיר [או]יבי כול הארצות

Damascus Document III, 10 ויסגרו לחרב

Damascus Document VII, 13 הוסגרו לחרב


אבני חפץ occurs but once in the Bible (Isaiah 54, 2), but it is frequently used in the literature under discussion:


B.S. 45, 18; 50, 11 אבני חפץ על החשן

1 QM XII: 12 אבני חפץ בהיכל

1 QM V, 6. 9. 14 אבני חפץ


שביבwhich, too, occurs but once in the Bible (Job 18, 15), is found as follows :


B.S. 8, 14 פן תבער בשביב אשו

B.S. 45, 35 ויאכלו בשיבי אשו

1 QH III, 30 ותשוט בשביבי להוב

1 QH VI, 18 בשביבי נוגהו יבערו כול


The Biblical term שואה ומשואה (Zephaniah 1: 16, Job 30, 3; 38, 27) is also found in:


B.S. 51, 16 ביום שואה ומשואה

1 QH V, 30 שאה ומשואה

1 QH IX, 6 ואני משאה למשואה


דלתים ובריח are at times joined into a particular idiom (e. g. Jeremiah 49, 31; Job 38, 10). This pattern is followed in:


B.S. 49, 19 ויצב דלתים ובריח

B.S. 28, 29 ולפך עשה דלתים ובריח

1 QH V, 37 בריחי ברזל ודלתות

1 QH VI, 27 דלתי מגן לאין מבוא ובריחי עוז

1 QH III, 18 ויסגרו דלתי שחת . . . ובריחי עולם


פתע פתאם is another rare Biblical idiom (e.g. Numeri 6, 9; Isaiah 29, 5), found in the following texts:


B.S. 11, 27 בפתע פתאם

1 QH XVII, 5 פתע פתאו[ם]


The following texts, without Biblical cognates, evidence affinity:

B.S. 43, 4 כור נפוח                                                  1 QH V, 16 כור נופחים


Hithpael of מוט is found but once in the Bible, 24, 19, but not in connection with ships. The following texts are not only akin linguistically, but also in content:


B.S. 33, 2 ומתמוטט כמסערה אוני

1 QH VI, 21.23 ויתמוטטו מדרך לבכה . . . והייתי כמלח באוניה בזעף


The nouns ישיש and זקן appear as synonyms in Ben Sira as well as in the Hodayot:


B.S. 8, 8 אל תבייש אנוש ישיש כי נמנה מזקנים                                  1 QH VI, 11 אשישים וזקנים


Here follows a list of some characteristic words and expressions shared by Ben Sira and Qumran texts; שבעתים (B.S. 7, 2; 35, 10; 40, 11; 20, 11; 1 QH V, 16, VII, 24), יהם לבב (B.S. 43, 21; 1 QH VII, 5, 1 QH fragment 4, 13) רז (B.S. 12, 12; 8, 24; 1 QH XII, 20, etc., 1 QS IV, 6, etc.), גור (B.S. 41, 24; 7, 6; 11, 44; 18, 26; 1 QH II, 23; III, 25), שחת (B.S. 21, 11, etc.; 1 QH III, 16, etc.) מקוה (B.S. 10, 13; 1 QH III, 2; VI, 6, IX, 14; 1 QH fragment 1, 7), צרר חיים (B.S. 6, 15; 1 QH II, 20), (B.S. 8, 12; 1 Qp Hab I, 10; 1 QH XV, 18; XVII, 24), הגה (B.S. 6, 39; 14, 23; 1 QH II, 21, etc.), מעמד (B.S. 43, 24; 1 QH III, 21; 1 QS II, 22; 15 times in 1 QM).

The Copper Scroll reveals another linguistic affinity with Ben Sira. In that Scroll (Col. V, line 8) the expression אשיח is used for rectangular reservoir (J. T. Milik, Revue Biblique, July 1959, p. 338) and the same term is found in Ben Sira 50, 3.

The occurrence of the terms ממשלת, קץ, מועד, sometimes in connection with תקופה in Ben Sira (36, 7; 43, 7) is closely paralleled in the Qumran literature (1 QH XII, 4–9; 1 QS X, 1–10–1 QM X, 15; 1 QH XI, 15–20). This at once leads us into a discussion of the Qumran calendar. The presence of Ben Sira in the Qumran caves, as well as the literary interrelationship which this paper attempts to demonstrate, are factors to be considered in such a discussion.

There can be no doubt that Ben Sira takes a lunar calendar for granted, since in 43, 7–9 we clearly see that Ben Sira saw in the moon the basis of the seasons, months and holidays: וגם ירח ירח עתות שבות ממשלת קץ ואות עולם בם מועד וזמני חוק וחפץ עשה בתקופתו, חדש בחדשו הוא מתחדש.

As to the Qumran calendar, the contention is generally made that this followed a solar system, based mainly on 1 Q Milhamah II, 1–2, where 52 “fathers of the community” and 26 “heads of the Mishmaroth” are mentioned. According to most authors (12) these two figures correspond to a 52 week year, id est the solar year of 364 days. This contention is, however, open to considerable doubt, and we shall here list some serious objections:

  1. a) The number 52 in 1 QM II, 1 obviously is a “headline” intended to sum the diverse groups of Priests and Levites following in the next two lines: 1 High Priest, 1 substitute High Priest, 12 priestly heads, 26 heads of the Mishmaroth and 12 Levitic heads, which add up to exactly 52. Evidently no one group is intended to be represented by 52 men, and therefore any reference to a certain number of weeks of service is completely irrelevant. The “abot ha‘Edah” in 1 QM II, 1 is probably the end of a passage which began at the end of column 1 and which may be reconstructed as follows: ומספר ראשי הכוהנים והלויים אשר יעמדו לפני ראשי אבות העדה שנים וחמשים]]
  2. b) The number of Mishmaroth is not connected with the weeks of the year. Its number was for a long time in a state of flux. According to tradition, the number changed from 8 to 16, and later to 24 (Talmud Yerushalmi: Ta‘anit IV, 2; Babli: Ta‘anit 27 a). The number 23 is also mentioned as a possibility in Yerushalmi Suckah V, 8, without concern for any possible discrepancy with the number of weeks of the year. It is, furthermore, likely that 25 Mishmaroth existed, for the following reason. The original list of 24 Mishmaroth follows the list in 1 Chronicles 24, 7–18; in Babli Ta‘anit 27 a an additional name, that of Pash’hur, is added; even Rashi remarks that this name is not included in the 1 Chron list (13).

Indeed a Baraitha (ברייתא של משמרות הכהנים) quoted by S. Klein (14) lists Mishmaroth with their corresponding cities, by sub-dividing the Mishmar of Me‘aziah into 2 groups residing in two different cities. (The Baraith eliminates Pash’hur as an independent Mishmar by fusing him with the Mishmar of Yequm.)

Further evidence for the existence—at least in theory—of 25 Mishmaroth is found in Tosephta Ta‘anit I, 1, according to which the prophets officiating at the beginning of the Second Commonwealth established 24 Mishmaroth, despite the absence of some priestly families who had remained in Babylonia, with the following condition: “If the family of Yehorib will immigrate from the Diaspora (at some future time), none of the present (24 Mishmaroth) will be displaced, but Yehorib will become an additional Mishmar.” We know, of course, that the family of Yehorib did arrive in Palestine, for the Maccabees themselves belonged to this family according to 1 Macchab. 14, 29. J. T. Milik erroneously refers to a “non-Aaronite descent of the Hasmoneans”, in Ten years etc., pp. 82–83. Therefore, they made up the 25th Mishmar.

In connection with above Tosephta it may be conjectured, that the men of Qumran were ready to allot an additional 26th Mishmar to the family of the Moreh Sedeq or to that of messianic High Priest, since 1 Q Milhamah describes conditions during an eschatological war (15).

Certainly, in a situation of such flux, there is hardly enough basis to draw far-reaching conclusions on any disagreement between Qumran and normative Judaism on the number of Mishmaroth, or any calendaric background to such a number. Indeed, the Talmud mentions a connection between the number of Mishmaroth and the number of years between Jubilee years. As fields could freely be sanctified to the Temple during 48 years of such a cycle, it was found most just to divide the Mishmaroth into 24 groups allowing them all an equal opportunity to win the real estate pledged to the Temple during 48 years. (Yer., Suckah V, 8). Evidently, no thought was given to tying the Mishmaroth to the number of weeks of the year.    We only have to think of the frequent leap years, holding 13 months, to see the difficulties which would arise!

It is of some interest to note, that even with a lunar calendar firmly accepted, the Talmud occasionally recognizes 365 days in the year: “השטן has the numerical value of 364, for during the 364 days of the year Satan has power to sow disturbance, but on Yom Kippur he has no such power!” (Babli, Yoma 20 a).

Lastly, there is evidence that the new moon was indeed considered the beginning of the months in Qumran. We have recognized above that 1 Q Hodayot XII, 4–9 is a close parallel to Ben Sira 43, 7–9. Indeed, 1 QH XII, 8 מולדי עת יסודי קצ ותקופת מועדים בתכונם באותותם לכל ממשלתם can only be understood as referring to the new moon; “Molad” has always retained this connotation in Jewish literature (cf. Pirqē Rabbi Eliezer, chapter VII) (16). The parallel, in this sense, with Ben Sira 43, 7 is compelling.

It is of considerable importance to note that several Mishmaroth liturgies have been found in the Cairo Genizah—the site of the Ben Sira and Damascus Documents. These poems—some as old as the 6th century Christian era—were designed to perpetuate the memory of the Mishmaroth cycle as well as the priestly cities assigned to each priestly family (17). These liturgies were recited at the Sabbath service in Palestinian synagogues as late as in the 11th century. It is, therefore, possible that the 4 Q Mishmaroth lists and “calendars” are likewise fragments of liturgical works.

Interesting observations can be made on the subject of the two Messiahses which has been brought into focus through the Qumran documents. The reference to the Messiah of Aharon and Israel in these documents (e. g, 1 Q Serek a II, 11. 12. 14; 1 Q Serek IX, 11; Damascus Document VIII, 24; XII, 23; XIV, 18) are of eschatological nature (18). A significant feature in all these references is the conspicuous priority given the Aharonide Messiah. This is particularly evident in 1 Q Serek a where the Messiah of Israel enters only after the Aharonide Messiah is seated and has received the members of the priesthood, including the High Priest.

In Ben Sira, too, we find in two places references to dual leadership:


B.S. 51, 29 הודו למצמיח קרן לבית דוד . . . הודו לבוחר בבני צדוק לכהן

B.S. 45, 46.47 וגם בריתו עם דוד בן ישי למטה יהודה, נחלת אש לפני כבודו ונחלת אהרן לכל זרעו


The passages evidently refer to some future, possibly messianic time (19). However, in Ben Sira the sequence of priority is reversed: despite Ben Sira’s obvious devotion to the priesthood and admiration for the High Priest Simon, he consistently puts the coming Davidic king ahead of the representatives of the priesthood. This arrangement is in line with Jewish tradition; during the Second Revolt the dual leadership (20) was practiced in the persons of the pseudo-Messiah Simon Ben Kosibah, the נשיא ישראל and the Tanna Eleazar from the priestly city of Modin(אלעזר המודעי) (21). However, Ben Kosibah, personifying the Messiah of Israel, had decidedly the upper hand. The political priority assigned in the Qumran literature to the priestly Messiah can be understood if we see in the Qumran community a branch of Sadducee sect. Ben Sira, on the other hand, was never considered a Sadducee work (22) its temporary ban (23) was merely intended to underline the division between canonical and extracanonical Books at a time when final judgment on the Canon was passed.

Some sections of Ben Sira have, in a general sense, kinship with sections from the Qumran literature. Ben Sira 39, 1–19 describes an ideal leader of the people who in some respects reminds the reader of the Moreh Sedeq of Qumran, with his erudition in Divine secrets, his composition of Thanksgiving prayers, leadership of the congregation, etc.

Ben Sira 42, 21–32, 38 is a detailed description of the Divine: works of creation, akin to the first column of 1 Q Hodayot (24). Ben Sira 43, 15.16 גבורתו תתוה ברק ותנצח זיקות משפטו, למען ברא אוצר ויעף עבים כרשף has been explained by M. Z. Segal as follows: “He made a reserve where He can keep the lightening until there is need to send it down to earth.” In the light of this Ben Sira passage we may perhaps read in 1 Q Milhamah X, 12 אוצרות לב[רק ברא ע]בים.

We now have four important bodies of literature both from the Cairo Genizah and Qumran: a) the Damascus Document; —b) the Book of Ben Sira; —c) the Testaments of the Patriarchs, particularly that of Levi (25); and d) the Mishmaroth literature. As such links can hardly be attributed to co-incidence, the possible common historic background of Qumran and the Karaitic community of Cairo takes on more concise form.

At the same time, the links with the main body of Jewish literature as integrated into the Talmud are equally taking on clearer contours.


Manfred R. Lehmann


(1) Jewish Quarterly Review, XL (1949), p. 48.

(2) Millar Burrows, Dead Sea Scrolls (New York, 1955), p. 220.

(3) Revue Biblique, January, 1956, p. 54.

(4) J. T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judaea (London, 1959), p. 32.

(5) Ben Sira references here follow the Hebrew numerals in M. Z. Segal, Sefer Ben Sira hash-Shalem (Jerusalem, 1953).

(6) Cf. Maimonides’ commentary on the Mishnah. It is evident from the discussion in the Mishnah, that the basis for the tradition of Samuel’s nazirship was controversial in Mishnaic times.

(7) M. Noth, Die fünf syrisch überlieferten apokryphen Psalmen, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 1930, p.  4.

(8) The tenacity of frequently used formulas is also evidenced in legal terminology. The Aramaic deed from Murabba‘at, written 134 Christian era (cf. Revue Biblique, April 1954, p. 182) contains terms closely reminiscent of Aramaic legal terms found in Papyrus 3 (E. C. Kraeling, Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri, New Haven, 1953) written five hundred years earlier!

(9) Cf. The writer’s article in Revue de Qumran: Talmudic Material relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls, t. I, n° 3, February 1959, p. 403.

(10) This reading is herewith suggested, drawing on the text found in 1 Q Milhamah XIV, 4.

(11) Since we find אנשי כזב repeatedly used in Ben Sira, paralleled by איש הכזב, Bar Koziba, attached to Ben Kosiba in the Talmud, may simply be the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew term.

(12) Yadin, Burrows, Gaster, Dupont-Sommer, Del Medico, Haber-mann, etc., in their respective translations and/or commentaries.

(13) Babli Qiddushin 70 b lists some outstanding character traits of descendants of the course of Pash’hur. It is significant to note that Maimonides in his commentary on Mishnah Middoth I, 1 uses a unique basis for the 24 courses, namely 1 Chronicles 26, 17–18 where different Levitic (not priestly) groups happen to add up to 24.

(14) S. Klein, Eres hag-Galil (Jerusalem, 1945), p. 191ff.

(15) It is significant that Babli, Ta‘anit 27 a reports that 12 out of the 24 Mishmaroth were stationed in Jericho, in the immediate vicinity of Qumran. S. Klein has proven (opus citatum) that in Taanitic times, all cities assigned to the Mishmaroth groups were located in Galilee. He believes that their emigration from Juda and resettlement in Galilee was a result of the wars with the Romans during the First Revolt which had left Juda impoverished and thus unable to supply the priests with tithes and related income from the crops of the land. The fact that before the destruction of the Temple the Mishmaroth still lived to a large extent in Jericho may have some bearing on the history of the Qumran community. Qumran had a prominent priestly population and the Moreh Sedeq himself was a priest—4 Q Pesher Psalm 37, lines 16.34; 1 Q Pesher Habacuc II, 8. Therefore, the latter’s אבית גלותו may be a reference to his Mishmar settlement; the Moreh Sedeq may have been expelled from his assigned habitat in Jericho for reasons of legalistic disagreements with the official priesthood.

(16) It should be remembered that the Karaites, too, had a disagreement with the normative Jews over the question of the New Moon. The Karaites held that the calendar had to be fixed by visually observed New Moons, in contrast to the Rabbis who admitted a calendar based on calculated New Moons. There is evidence that already in Tannaitic times astronomic calculations were used by the Synhedrion, although witnesses also had to testify visual observation; an entirely calculated calendar was fixed by Hillel II. Thus a controversy over the calendar could arise even when both parties accepted the lunar calendar. Thus the מולדי עולה mentioned in the 1 Q Mystery fragment may be translated “the wrong New Moon, id est one fixed by an illegal process”. We cannot yet tell wherein lay the controversy, but using the Karaitic example, we may conjecture that the Qumranites, too, insisted on a strictly visual observation of a new moon. We are thus not compelled to presuppose a solar calendar in Qumran!

(17) S.  Klein, opus citatum, p. 191ff.

(18)   References to two Messiahs are found repeatedly in the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs, e.g. Testament of Simon VII, 2; Testament of Juda XXI, 2. 3; Testament of Dan V, 10; Testament of Naphtali IV, 4; VIII, 2.—The trio mentioned in 1 Q Serek IX, 11 נביא ומשיחי אהרון וישראל is evidently based on Malachi 3, 23. It is, therefore, likely from Damascus Document XIX, 35–XX, 1  מיום האסף מורה היחד עד עמוד משיח מאהרון ומישראלthat the Covenanters a) considered the Moreh Sedeq the prophetic, priestly forerunner of the two Messiahs (Elias, too, according to tradition, was a priest, being the reincarnation of Pinneas), and b) the Moreh Sedeq had to die before the coming of the two Messiahs. This pattern may be behind the discussion held with John 1, 24.

(19)  The stress on a Davidic king reflects Ben Sira’s pre-Hasmonean environment. We find the same stress in Qumran and rabbinic literature, but there it is an expression of anti-Hasmonaean sentiments. Two similar interpretations of Amos 9, 11 in Damascus Document VII, 15–20 and 4 Q Florilegium, lines 11–13 anticipate the coming of a messianic צמח דויד king of Davidic lineage together with the דורש התורה. The Pesher in Genesis 49, 10 contains the characteristic words:בהיות לישראל ממשל [הב]רית יושב לוא לדויד .

We find a similar allusion in the Priestly Blessings, both in Qumran and in the Yom Kippur liturgy as reported in the Talmud (see separate paper).

(20) This concept was later changed by the Rabbis into a three-fold combination: (Mishnah, Abott IV, 17) שלושה כתרים הם: כתר תורה וכתר כהונה וכתר מלכות.

(21) It is important to re-evaluate Rabbi Eliezer ha-Modai’s sayings in the light of the Dead Sea documents. His sayings can be divided into two main groups: a) exegetical observations (Babli: Sanhedrin 22 a, Shebu‘ot 35 b, Shebat 55 b, Megillah 7 a, Yoma 76 a, Zebahim 116 b, Baba Bathra 16 b); —b) sayings with political undertones (Babli: Megillah 15 b, Pesahim 117 a, Sanhedrin 99 a, Hullin 92 a).

Of the latter sayings at least two allude to dual leadership: in Babli Pesahim 117 a Rabbi Eliezer attributes Psalm 115 to Deborah and Sisera, as a possible parallel to his own position with Bar Kokeba (Deborah-Rabbi Eliezer; Sisera-Bar Kokeba). In Babli Hullin 92 a he interprets Genesis 40: 10 as alluding to a) the Sanctuary b) the king, and c) the High Priest, again drawing attention to the leaders coming from Israel and from Aharon. It may be suggested that Rabbi Eliezer’s pre-occupation with the symbolism of the vine was the cause for the reproduction of the vine branch on the coins of the Second Revolt (British Museum Coins, plate 37–18). Rabbi Eliezer may here carry on an old tradition on the “political” symbolism of the vine leaf, since it is also found on coins of the First Revolt (British Museum Coins, plate 30–11). It may be mentioned in parenthesis that the Amphora found on the reverse side of the latter coin may be best identified with the קשוה of Ben Sira 50, 20, used by the High Priest for pouring wine on the altar. This identification is more satisfactory than the suggestions of H. Strauss in Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (1960), pp. 66–69.

(22) It is especially noteworthy that Ben Sira is quoted by Rabbi Simon ben Shetah, the Pharisaic Leader who was responsible for eliminating Sadducees’ influence from the Synhedrion. The Ben Sira quotation is used by him in a tense conversation with his brother-in-law king Alexander Janneus, a Sadducee for most of his life (Yerushalmi: Berakot VII, 2; Nazir V, 3; Genesis Rabbah 92; Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7, 11).

(23) During the Taanaitic period, during which the Canon was delineated, this ban was expressed in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin IX, 1). However, some generations later, when the Canon was sufficiently recognized, the Amoraites relaxed this ban and permitted the study of the “good portions” of Ben Sira (Babli Sanhedrin 99 bמילי מעליתא ביה דרשינן).

(24) Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer XVIII relates that according to the school of Shammai the heavens were created first, according to the school of Hillel, the earth. Finally, both schools agreed that both were created simultaneously. 1 Q Hodayot I, 10ff as well as Ben Sira 42, 21ff. agree that the heavens were created first.

(25) J. T. Milik, Ten Years . . ., p. 34.

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