Beware the Wiles of the Wanton Woman, Magen Broshi, Biblical Archaeology Review (9:4), Jul/Aug 1983.


Wisdom of Ben Sira

Wisdom of Ben Sira

Nearly 35 years ago, Bedouin tribesmen searching for more scrolls near the original find on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea discovered the now-famous Qumran cave 4. Cave 4 proved to be the richest of all the Qumran caves, containing fragments of over 500 scrolls.

One of the scroll fragments from cave 4 is known as the “Wiles of the Wanton Woman”1 and reflects the Essene fear of, as well as contempt for, women. The text on this fragment is remarkably similar to certain passages from Proverbs; indeed, the Qumran fragment was apparently modeled after chapters 5 through 7 of Proverbs.

While we are comparing, we should also look at a passage from the Wisdom of Ben Sirach (Ecclesiasticus). Ben Sirach was roughly an elder contemporary of the Qumranites. His book is part of the canon in the Roman Catholic Bible. For Jews and Protestants, it is part of the Apocrypha.

The passage from the Qumran cave 4 fragment is a warning against falling into the traps of the seductive woman. It reads in part as follows-

… She lies in wait in secret places

At every corner she will sit.

In the city’s squares she displays herself,

And in the town gates she sets herself,

And there is none to stop her from [whoring].

Her eyes glance hither and thither,

And she wantonly raises her eyelids

To seek out a righteous man and lead him astray

And a perfect man to make him stumble …

Read the rest of Beware the Wiles of the Wanton Woman in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.

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