Non-Jews in the Sectarian Law of the Zadokite Fragments, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1994.


Although the Qumran corpus contains neither specific information about what constitutes Jewish identity nor, hence, how to define a non-Jew, it does offer numerous laws relating to non-Jews. The regulations of the Zadokite Fragments on this topic begin by legislating-

Let him not put forth his hand to shed the blood of anyone from among the non-Jews for the sake of wealth and profit. (ZADOKITE FRAGMENTS 12-6–7)

The text makes no reference to any penalty for such actions. Certainly killing for self-defense would have been permitted by Jewish law. Rather, this particular law is meant as a polemic against the Hasmonaean rulers, warning against military campaigns undertaken only to add territory or to accumulate spoils of war. A similar view is expressed in Pesher Habakkuk, which condemns-

the last priests of Jerusalem who gather wealth and property from the spoil of the nations. (PESHER HABAKKUK 9-4–6)

The text goes on to prohibit the carrying off of the property of non-Jews-

And furthermore, let him not carry off any of their property so that they not blaspheme, except in accord with the decision of the Community of Israel. (ZADOKITE FRAGMENTS 12-7–8)

This law prohibits stealing from non-Jews, specifically by taking their property through military action. Most interesting is the explanation given- lest they blaspheme God. The same idea is expressed in the talmudic ruling (T. Bava Qamma 10-15) that prohibits stealing from non-Jews because it leads to profaning God’s name. In reflecting badly on the Jewish people, such actions impugn Israel’s God. This proscription also makes clear that war could be undertaken only with the council’s permission. Only under that condition could such a war be considered just, that is, more than simply an excuse to plunder the enemy.

This series of laws then turns to two matters pertaining to animals and produce-

Let no one sell pure (kosher) animals and fowl to non-Jews in order that they not sacrifice them. And from his threshing floor and from his wine press let him not sell to them (the non-Jews) at any price. (ZADOKITE FRAGMENTS 12- 8–10)

The first ruling, prohibiting the sale of pure (kosher) animals and fowl to non-Jews lest they sacrifice them, also existed in rabbinic law. It was intended to make certain that Jews did not support idolatrous worship even indirectly.

Also prohibited here is the sale to non-Jews of sectarian produce processed on the threshing floor or in the wine press. This law prohibits selling the produce directly from these installations, that is, before it has been tithed. In other words, selling to non-Jews does not exempt produce from tithing—the obligation to set aside one-tenth of the produce for the Levites, for the poor, or for eating in Jerusalem, depending on the particular year.

The final law in this series prohibits selling male or female servants to non-Jews-

And his man-servant and his maid-servant, let him not sell to them (the non-Jews), since they (the servants) have entered with him into the covenant of Abraham. (ZADOKITE FRAGMENTS 12-10–11)

This law clearly concerns servants who would come under the rabbinic classification of ‘eved kena‘ani, literally “Canaanite slave,” that is, non-Jewish servants who have begun a process of conversion to Judaism. The same regulation exists in mishnaic law wherein such slaves automatically gained their freedom if sold to non-Jews (M. Gittin 4-6). This law was intended to ensure that slaves preparing themselves to convert would be able to fulfill the commandments they were undertaking. Another text, Ordinances A, prohibits a Jew from being the servant of a non-Jew (2–4 2).

In the area of Jewish/non-Jewish relations, the Zadokite Fragments presents a summary of laws enshrined by later rabbinic tradition in the Mishnah tractate Avodah Zarah (Foreign Worship). The laws in this scroll simply reflect those followed by a number of Jewish groups, including the Pharisees. Like other non-Hellenized Jews of the Second Temple era, the sectarians eschewed killing or robbing gentiles, yet they also were careful to avoid in any way supporting or encouraging idolatrous worship.

As mentioned in an earlier chapter, the Zadokite Fragments discusses non-Jews with reference to Sabbath law. Again, in another exact parallel to mishnaic law, the text prohibits assigning a non-Jewish surrogate to do labor prohibited on the Sabbath, for doing so would make the non-Jew the Jew’s agent, thereby implicating the latter in an indirect violation of Sabbath law (Zadokite Fragments 11-2). Indeed, a similar prohibition applies to male and female servants (Zadokite Fragments 11-12). This second law certainly concerns Canaanite slaves in the process of conversion, because Jewish servants would be already obligated to observe the Sabbath under Jewish law.

A strange proscription, possessing no known parallel in rabbinic law but perhaps parallel to some later Karaite views, prohibits spending the Sabbath “in a place close to the gentiles” (Zadokite Fragments 11-14–15). This law was most probably intended to ensure ritual purity on the Sabbath, a matter important in sectarian circles. On the other hand, the law might have been meant to forbid sectarians, seeking to circumvent the Sabbath ban on carrying or traveling, from creating a technical residency in partnership with non-Jews for this purpose. Such an interpretation would accord fully with later rabbinic law.

Here we see that although non-Jews are not obligated to observe the Jewish Sabbath, neither are Jews permitted to employ non-Jews to do prohibited labor, whether they are free or Canaanite slaves. Here again, the sect’s views on this topic are sufficiently close to the Pharisaic-rabbinic tradition to suggest that they were views held by many observant Jews in this period.

A fragmentary law preserved in three Qumran manuscripts of the Zadokite Fragments seems to outlaw bringing (perhaps to the Temple or to the sectarian communal meals) meat slaughtered by non-Jews-

Let no one bring [meat] with the blood of their sacrifice [from the nations …] and from an[y] of the gold, silver, brass, [and the] tin and the le[ad of which] the nations have made an idol, let no one bring it … (ZADOKITE FRAGMENTS Df 1 II 8–10; Dd 10 3–5)

Metals—gold, silver, brass, tin, and lead—used by non-Jews to make an idol were likewise prohibited. Such vessels were to be free of all contact with idolatrous worship.

According to Words of Moses (III 6) and in line with Deuteronomy 15-3, it is permissible to take interest from non-Jews, but not from Jews. The Zadokite Fragments (Dd 6 10–11) castigates anyone who takes interest from a fellow Jew.

Extremely important, especially in light of material to be cited later from the Temple Scroll, is an enigmatic passage stating-

Any man who shall condemn (or destroy) any man according to the laws of the nations is to be put to death. (ZADOKITE FRAGMENTS 9-1)

Scholars have debated the meaning of this passage, found in two of the Qumran manuscripts as well as in the medieval copy. It clearly is based on Leviticus 27-29 and Genesis 9-6. The Leviticus passage, translated literally, states- “No man who has been condemned for the Lord can be ransomed; he shall be put to death.” In light of this verse, we can interpret our passage to mean that a man who condemns—that is, singles out for death—another shall be put to death. Genesis 9-6 provides that “whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed,” that is, one who causes another to lose his life shall lose his own. It is most probable that in our passage, we are dealing with a law condemning to death one who turns to non-Jewish courts to accuse a fellow Jew of a crime, since in so doing one has informed against one’s fellow Jew.

Preserved only in a Qumran copy is a passage that appears to be a list of offenses, including-

the person who reveals the secret of his people to the nations, or one who curses o[r speaks] slanderously against those anointed with His holy spirit, or leads [his people astray]. (ZADOKITE FRAGMENTS De 9 II 12–15)

As we know also from somewhat later rabbinic texts, informing on Jews to non-Jewish authorities was such a problem during this period that strong measures were considered necessary to prevent it. In context, this passage probably listed the punishment or procedures for those committing this offense.

Pages 372-375

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