Pharisees and Sadducees in Pesher Nahum, Lawrence H. Schiffman.


Minhah le-Nahum- biblical and other studies presented to Nahum M. Sarna in honour of his 70th birthday, JSOT Press, Sheffield 1993, p.272-290.

Ever since its discovery in Qumran Cave 4, scholars have realized that the significance of Pesher Nahum (4QpNah) goes way beyond its value for understanding the Qumran sect and its ideology.1 Indeed, it is the contemporizing form of the biblical exegesis (better, eisegesis) which we designate as pesher2 which makes these texts such important sources of historical information.

In the case of 4QpNah its significance is heightened because of the important information contained in this text regarding the history of the Pharisees and Sadducees, certainly the most important groups of Jews in Hasmonean times.3 Clearly, a restudy of this document is necessary at this point in history of Dead Sea Scrolls research, in view of the recently announced, and soon to be published, 4Q Miqsat Ma’aseh Ha-Torah (4QMMT),4 which has given us a wealth of information on the halakhic views of the Pharisees and the Sadducees in Hasmonean times and in the years immediately preceding.5 It is now certain as well that the Temple Scroll (11QT) also contains numerous laws of Sadducean origin and that it often polemicizes directly against Pharisaic views which were known beforehand in rabbinic literature, either as attributed to the Pharisees or to later tannaim.6 All this has given an impetus to the use of the scrolls to reconstruct the history of the Pharisees and the Sadducees in the Hasmonean period. It is to this effort that the present study seeks to contribute.

1. Date and Authorship

That 4QpNah is a ‘sectarian’ text, one authored by a member or members of the Qumran community which transmits the teachings and ideology of that community, is certain. This is the case with all the pesharim found at Qumran. Indeed, the very nature of the exegesis found in this literature seems to be unique to the sect, although similar contemporizing interpretations exist in the New Testament.

The script of the manuscript of 4QpNah has been described as reflecting a ‘formal’ type, dating from the end of the Hasmonean period to the beginning of the Herodian.7 This paleographic dating is extremely important because it is essentially confirmed by the terminus ad quem created by the contents. Here we find a detailed description of the events surrounding the invasion of the Hasmonean kingdom by Demetrius II Eukerus (95–88 BCE) as well as perhaps the events of the rule of Salome Alexandra (76–67 BCE).8 These events bring us sufficiently close to the end of the Hasmonean dynasty (63 BCE) to indicate that the text was composed at the latest shortly thereafter. Hence, our preserved manuscript would be most reasonably dated from shortly before to shortly after the Roman conquest.9

We cannot rule out the possibility that parts of this text pre-existed the invasion in question. We do know that some Qumran works circulated in varying recensions, which seem to testify to the growth of those compositions as a whole over time. Yet in this case, because we are dealing with a sustained interpretation of the biblical book of Nahum, it seems most reasonable to expect composition to have occurred at one time.10

2. The Pharisees

The text is unfortunately fragmentary at the beginning, so that it picks up with the interpretation of Nah. 1.3 in column II of the manuscript. After some references to the כתיים, clearly an allusion to the Romans, the text continues in 4QpNah 1–2.2.7–8 to comment on Nah. 1.4-

ופרח ל]ב[נון היא] עדת דורשי החלקות ואנשי עצ[תם ואבדו מלפני] עדת[

And the flower of Le[ba]non is [the congregation of the interpreters of smooth things11 and the people of] their [coun]cil.12 And they will be destroyed from before [the congregation of] the chosen one[s of God13

Already here we see the basic motifs of the sectarian polemic against the Pharisees. They are identified by the pesher with ‘the flower of Lebanon’. The full citation from the end of Nah. 1.4 is ופרח לבנון אמלל, ‘and the flower of Lebanon withers’.14 Our text takes this clause to indicate that the Pharisees are to be destroyed (ואבדו). The difficult אמלל has been explained by the pesher as indicating destruction.

While it is true that crucial parts of these lines are restored, there is little question, as we will see below, that the Pharisees are intended. While it is tempting to address here, at the outset, the significance of the expression ‘interpreters of smooth things’, methodological considerations make it appropriate to deal with it only in a context which is not restored. We should note that in this passage, even with its lacunae, it is certain that Nah. 1.4 is seen as prophesying the destruction of a group of opponents of the ‘chosen one[s of God]’, a term for the Qumran sect.

The Pharisees appear in a political context as 4QpNah relates the story of the invasion of Demetrius III Eukerus. In 4QpNah 3–4.1.2–3 there is an interpretation of Nah. 2.12b-

]פשרו על דמי[טרוס מלך יון אשר בקש לבוא ירושלים בעצת דורשי החלקות.

[Its interpretation concerns Deme]trius, 15 king of Greece, 16 who sought to enter Jerusalem on the advice of the interpreters of smooth things. 17

This interpretation is based on the identification of Demetrius with the lion mentioned in Nahum. Whereas the MT has אריה לביא ‘lion and lion’s breed’,18 4QpNah has a variant text in the lemma, ארי לבוא ‘the lion to come’.19 This reading was the basis for the interpretation that Demetrius (the lion) sought ‘to enter’ Jerusalem, which is identified with the מעון אריות (MT to Nah. 3.12) which, in turn, had already been explained by the pesher as מדור לרשעי גוים, ‘the dwelling place of the evil ones of the nations’, in line 1.20

Demetrius is termed here ‘king of Greece’, but, of course, he was king of Seleucid Syria. As we know, his invasion of the Hasmonean state of Alexander Janneus (103–76 BCE) was brought about by Jewish intervention.21 I will return to this aspect below.22 For now, it is important to examine the designation our text uses for the Pharisees. The Hebrew expressionדורשי החלקות is actually a pun.23 It begins with חלקות, literally ‘smooth things’, i.e. ‘falsehoods’, which appears in Isa. 30.10, Ps. 12.3–4 and 73.18 and Dan. 11.32. This word is intended here as a play on the word הלכות, a term attested otherwise only later, which refers to the Pharisaic-Rabbinic laws. While the noun חלקות appears in Isaiah with דבר ‘to speak’, it appears here, as well as in other sectarian documents, with דרש, which by this time meant ‘to interpret’.24 Accordingly, the expression דורשי החלקות is a designation for the Pharisees who, in the view of the sect, are false interpreters of the Torah who derive incorrect legal rulings from their exegesis. It is these false legalists who brought Demetrius to attack Janneus.

Despite all the information he provides on the question of Alexander Janneus’s relations with Pharisees and Sadducees, we have only a hint in Josephus that the enemies of Janneus who provoked Demetrius were Pharisees. Josephus discusses this episode in War 1.4.1–6.4 (§§85–131) and Ant. 13.13.5 (§§372–416). In both these descriptions he tells us only of opposition by the ‘Jews’ who initiated the revolt against him and called in Demetrius. As a result some of them were executed at the end. Thus, we have no direct claim in Josephus that the Pharisees played a leading role in these affairs.

But in both accounts we hear at the beginning that Janneus angered the populace at the Sukkot festival. This led to his initial slaughter of his own citizens. Whereas the account in War 1.4.3 (§§88–89) is quite sketchy, Ant. 13.13.5 (§§72–74) gives us two reasons for the conflict. First, ‘as he stood beside the altar and was about to sacrifice, they pelted him with citrons’. Etrogim, used to fulfil the biblical command of the four kinds (Lev. 23.40), were thrown at him for what in this account is an unknown reason. Secondly, his priestly legitimacy was challenged by those who said that ‘he was descended from captives and was unfit to hold (priestly) office’.

Both of these accusations have parallels in tannaitic materials, and these will allow us to confirm the information in 4QpNah to the effect that the Pharisees were indeed the opponents of Janneus who, according to our text, took the lead in the revolt and in inviting Demetrius into the country. In the case of the pelting of Janneus with citrons, there is a parallel in m. Suk. 4.9. There it is related that once a priest poured out the water libation on his feet and as a result was pelted by the people with their citrons (ורגמוהו כל העם באתרוגיהן). That this priest is to be identified with Alexander Janneus, about whom little factual detail was remembered in the tannaitic period, is certain.25 But it is important to note that the issue of the water-drawing ceremony was a long-standing debate between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Janneus’s reason for pouring the water on his feet was to demonstrate publicly his disdain for the Pharisaic approach which required a special water libation during Sukkot. The revolt which began in the aftermath of this event would naturally have been led by Pharisees and, therefore, we can accept as historical this new detail which 4QpNah supplies in its account.

Josephus mentioned a second reason for popular objection to Janneus- there was a challenge to his priestly legitimacy. This very same challenge appears in two other places. The well-known baraita’ describing Janneus’s confrontation with the Pharisees in b. Qid. 61a has the Pharisees say to him, ‘It is enough for you to have the crown of kingship. Leave the crown of priesthood to the descendents of Aaron’, to which the comment is added, ‘for they were saying that his mother had been captured in Modiin’. A parallel accusation appears in Ant. 13.10.5 (§§291–292), where it is made by a certain Eleazer to John Hyrcanus (134–104 BCE) in the context of his confrontation with the Pharisees.

Now there is little question that these two confrontations are one and the same, but critical scholarship has been unable to fix with certainty the date and the Hasmonean high priest to which the story ought to refer. For our purposes it is important to note that the Pharisaic opposition to Janneus is again confirmed in this detail. Again, we have every reason to believe that they are the opponents left unidentified in Josephus’s account of the war with Demetrius.

Interpreting the end of Nah. 2.13, the text explains in 4QpNah 3–4.1.6–8-

פשרו על כפיר החרון ]. . .[מות בדורשי החלקות אשר יתלה אנשים חיים] . . .[ בישראל מלפנים כי לתלוי חי על העץ ]י[קרא.

Its interpretation concerns the Lion of Wrath [. . .] death to the interpreters of smooth things, for he hung men alive [. . . ] in Israel from of old, for one hung alive on a tree shall [he] be called.

This passage indicates that as a result of their participation in the revolt, the Pharisees were crucified by Janneus. This exegesis already assumes the identification of Janneus as the Lion of Wrath which appears in line 5 (restored), interpreting Nah. 2.13a.26 He has literally fulfilled the words of this verse; he ‘filled his lair27 with prey28 and his den29 with torn flesh’. At the end of the passage, direct reference is made to Deut. 21.22–23. It seems most likely that the language of this text is being used but that the explicit mention of hanging men ‘alive’ is meant to distinguish Janneus’s cruel crucifixion from the practice commanded in Deuteronomy.30

The account in this passage fits exactly with that of Josephus who discusses 800 crucified by Janneus. War. 1.4.6 (§97) simply terms them ‘captives’ while Ant. 13.14.2 (§380) calls them ‘Jews’. Our text, however, informs us that the victims of the reign of terror which Janneus engaged in after he forced Demetrius to withdraw were his erstwhile Pharisaic enemies.

We first encounter the designation ‘Ephraim’ for the Pharisees in line 12 of the same column, but there is no real context preserved. A more complete sense of the use of this term, no doubt a pun on פרושים, ‘Pharisees’, can be gleaned from the following column. In an interpretation of Nah. 3.1,הוי עיר דמים כלה כחש פרק מלאה , ‘Ah, city of crime,31 utterly treacherous, full of violence’, 4QpNah 3–4.2.2 states-

פשרו היא עיר אפרים דורשי החלקות לאחרית הימים אשר בכחש ושקר]ים י[תהלכו.

Its interpretation- it is the city of Ephraim, the interpreters of smooth things in the end of days who live by falsehood and lie[s].

Here again the Pharisees appear as false interpreters of the law. It seems most likely that the ‘city’ of Ephraim does not refer to some actual city, but rather to the Pharisaic community as a whole. Indeed, the word עיר is simply a reflection of the Hebrew of Nah. 3.1. Further, in equating the verse with its interpretation, the sect took דמים, ‘crime’ (literally, ‘blood’), to refer to the Pharisees, so that Ephraim replaces ‘violence.’ The difficult פרק מלאה is taken by the pesher to refer to the way of life of the Pharisees. It is possible that the choice of the verb יתהלכו may have been conditioned by its cognate הלכה, ‘religious law, way of life’, which lies behind the pun חלקות.32 The reference to the end of days refers to the sectarians’ own view that they were living on the verge of the dawn of the eschaton, in the ‘last days’.33 It was this period of the end of days about which, in the view of the sect, Nahum had actually prophesied.

We have already encountered the use of חלקות, ‘smooth things’, to indicate the teachings of the Pharisees which the sectarians considered false. Yet here there are added terms to make the same point, כחש and שקרים. The pesher, in fact, substitutes the hendiadys כחש ושקרים for the biblical כחש, no doubt for emphasis. Indeed, overall the claim of the sect against the Pharisees was that they falsely interpreted Scripture, a matter to which we will return below.

Turning to the exegesis of Nah. 3.1b–3, 34 4QpNah 3–4.2.4–6 expounds-

פשרו על ממשלת דורשי החלקות אשר לוא ימוש מקרב עדתם חרב גוים שבי ובז וחרחור בינותם וגלות מפחד אויב ורוב פגרי אשמה יפולו בימיהם ואין קץ לכלל חלליהם ואף בגוית בשרם יכשולו בעצת אשמתם.

Its interpretation concerns the domain of the interpreters of smooth things from the midst of whose congregation there will not depart the sword of the nations, captivity, plunder and strife, 35 and exile because of fear of the enemy. For many guilty corpses will fall in their days, and there will be no end to the total of their slain. And they will even stumble over their decaying flesh because of their guilty council.

The description in Nahum of the city (Nineveh) is taken here to apply in toto to the Pharisees. Certain modifications of the language of the biblical material are especially significant. The text adds the idea of the עדה, ‘congregation’, i.e. the community of the Pharisees who in some way have banded together. This means that they are perceived as a party, not simply as isolated individuals who interpret the law. The sword of the verse has become the ‘sword of the nations’, the non-Jews, with whom the Pharisees conspired to overthrow Alexander Janneus. Despite the sect’s dislike for this ruler and disagreements with him, they still condemn the Pharisees for turning to the Seleucids.36 In the process of interpreting the verse, the pesher also adds allusions to the ‘exile for fear of the enemy’, a matter to be taken up below. The substitution of חלליהם for the biblical גויה is intended to avoid a term which can also be used for living bodies.

Extremely interesting is the manner in which the text deals with Nahum’s וכשלו בגויתם (the ketiv is יכשלו).37 This clause literally means, ‘they will stumble over their (own) bodies’, since the destruction will leave so many corpses. Our author interprets it to mean that the Pharisees will transgress in matters pertaining to their bodies, such as sexual prohibitions, as a result of their guilty council.
The use of ממשלת does not imply that the Pharisees were ruling.38 Rather, it refers to their ‘domain’, similar in meaning to the term גורל, ‘lot’, in Qumran usage.39 This passage clearly refers to the aftermath of the war with Demetrius, rather than to some period of Pharisaic rule such as probably took place in the days of Salome Alexandra, the wife of Alexander Janneus and her successor.
The text notes that even after the war with Demetrius and his expulsion, the Pharisees were still pursued by destruction and were forced to flee. Further, the text describes the slaying of large numbers of their comrades. All this the author blames on the plot hatched by the Pharisees to overthrow Janneus with the help of the Seleucids.

This picture corresponds closely with that of Josephus. Ant. 13.14.2 (§§379–383)40 describes the manner in which Janneus dealt with his Jewish enemies who had allied themselves with him in order to expel their erstwhile ally Demetrius. He captured and killed the most powerful of them in what Josephus considers a cruel manner, crucifying them, as we have already seen. Then his remaining opponents fled the country and remained in exile for as long as he lived. There can be no question that these are the events described in our text, except that here the opponents of Janneus are correctly identified as the Pharisees.

The account continues as the text interprets Nah. 3.441 in 4QpNah 3–4.2.8–10

פשר]ו ע[ל מתעי אפרים אשר בתלמוד שקרם ולשון כזביהם ושפת מרמה יתעו רבים מלכיה]ם [שרים כוהנים ועם עם גר נלוה ערים ומשפחות יובדו בעצתם נ]כ[בדים ומוש]לים[ יפלו ]מז[עם לשונם.

[Its] interpretation [con]cerns those who lead Ephraim astray, in whose teaching (talmud( is their falsehood, and whose lying tongue and dishonest lip(s) lead many astray, [their] kings, officers priests, and people, with the proselyte who converts [literally, ‘joins’]. They shall destroy cities and clans with their plot; nob[l]es and rul[ers] shall fall because of the [insol]ence of their speech.42
The text now centers on the leadership of the Pharisaic party. The verse being interpreted speaks of the harlotry and magic with which the harlot (herself having already gone astray) led others to harlotry and magic. It is this aspect which called forth for the author the Pharisaic leadership which had, in the view of the sect, led others astray with false interpretations. Whatever the actual meaning of the verb found in MT as המכרת and in the lemma in 4QpNah as הממכרת, it is clear that the pesher took it in the sense of ‘ensnares’, an explanation which seems to require emendation to

According to the biblical text, ‘nations’ and ‘families’ are ensnared by the harlot. These terms are expanded considerably by the pesher which takes גוים as referring to ‘nobles, eminences’ (=גאים), who are the kings, officers, and priests.44 The משפחות are taken to refer to the people, the proselytes and the various cities and clans of the Jewish people as well as their leaders. All of these are said to have been victimized by the insolent teachings of the Pharisees. From this text it is certain that there is a distinction to be made between those who actually expounded the law themselves and their followers. The leaders are apparently able to influence even members of the aristocracy. We also hear that they influenced the common people,עם , as well as proselytes. This statement is significant in that it dovetails with Josephus’s statement (Ant. 13.10.6 [§298]) about the popularity of the Pharisees among the common people. This is probably a correct statement, although we cannot be certain whether it applied at all times, nor can we gauge the extent and ramifications of this popularity.45

At this point we learn of the content of the lies described above. They refer specifically to the תלמוד of the Pharisees.46 We ought not to be surprised at this point to learn that such a talmud existed.47 We have already seen that laws existed which were generally termed הלכות and that the use of the term דרש implied that the Pharisees used midrashic exegesis in analyzing biblical texts. Together with the method of logical deduction known as talmud,48 these approaches were the mainstay of later tannaitic and amoraic learning, and our text indicates that these components existed already for the Pharisees. This talmud was the method of logical analysis which must have already been part of the intellectual equipment of Pharisaic endeavor, and it was regarded as false by the Qumran sectarians, just like the exegesis and the laws of the Pharisaic tradition.

The author of our text continues his polemic against the Pharisees and tells us that in the end of days the evil of their ways will become manifest and those whom they have led astray (the ‘simple ones of Ephraim’) will leave those who have led them astray. These Pharisaic followers are then expected, in the sectarian understanding of the prophecies of Nah. 3.5, to rejoin the true House of Israel, thought by the sect to be itself (4QpNah 3–4.2.1–8). These dreams of the sect, of course, were never realized. Since they tell us little about the Pharisees in the author’s time, or beforehand, I omit detailed consideration of these passages from this study.

3. Sadducees

This document also gives us some information about the Sadducees. It appears that, had the text survived in its entirety, there would have been more information; the preserved text effectively breaks off in the middle of discussing this group. I will first gather these data and analyze them, and then discuss their connection to the Sadducean background of the founders of the Qumran sect and their halakhic traditions.

Towards the end of the preserved portion of the scroll, the author turns to the Sadducees, who are designated by him as ‘Manasseh’. He most probably chose this term in apposition to Ephraim, which was recommended as a term for the Pharisees by its similar consonants. Interpreting Nah. 3.8a, 4QpNah 3–4.3.9–10 describes them and their aristocratic leaders-

פשרו אמון הם מנשה והיאורים הם גד]ו[לי מנשה נכבדי ה]עיר המחזק[ים את מ]נשה[.

Its interpretation is (that) Amon, 49 they are Manasseh, and the rivers are the magnates of Manasseh, the honored ones of the [city who suppo]rt 50 Ma[nasseh].

To understand this point, careful attention must be paid to the biblical text being interpreted. The text in Nah. 3.7 regarding Nineveh and its destruction was interpreted by the pesher to refer to the prophesied devastation of the Pharisees. It is then that the biblical prophet turns to Nineveh and asks her whether she is really better than No-Amon (Thebes), which had been destroyed only shortly before by the Assyrians (in 663 BCE). In context, therefore, the pesher is arguing that we can be certain that the Pharisees (= Nineveh) will be destroyed because of the destruction of the Sadducees which had taken place previously.

This interpretation presumes that the Sadducees had met their match and been weakened before the Pharisees.51 Indeed, to a great extent Hasmonean priestly power came at the expense of their Sadducean predecessors. Yet in our text we learn additional facts about the Sadducees in the author’s day or earlier. The magnates of the Sadducees were the honored ones of the city, that is, the aristocracy, religious and economic. The very same claim was made by Josephus based on his experience of later Judean society (Ant. 13.10.6 [§298]), 52 and this claim seems to be borne out by our text and can be taken as fact. These aristocrats were ‘supporters’ of Manasseh. This indicates that besides the Sadducees themselves various others connected with the upper classes supported this group even while not being full-fledged members. Indeed, this same situation seems to be described above for the Pharisees.

Interpreting Nah. 3.9,53 4QpNab 3–4.4.1 explains

 פשרו הם רשע[י מנש]ה בית פלג הנלוים על מנשה.

Its interpretation is that it is the evil [ones of Manass]eh, 54 the House of Peleg, who have joined Manasseh.

Here we again hear about the followers of the Sadducees, termed the House of Peleg, literally ‘division’, who have joined the Sadducees. From this designation we can already see that they are regarded as a group of evildoers within the Sadducean camp. The interpretation is probably based on the end of the verse, ‘Put and the Libyans, they were your helpers’. Presumably, the pesher understands the House of Peleg, equivalent to Put and Libya, as the helpers, i.e. associates of Manasseh who are the Sadducees. These again are supporters or ‘retainers’. Apparently, large groups of Jews had allegiance to the teachings of these groups without full membership.

To a great extent our understanding of this passage is dependent on the identity of the House of Peleg. This term also occurs in the Zadokite Fragments (CD 20.22). The passage is only preserved in the medieval manuscript B-מבית פלג אשר יצאו מעיר הקדש וישענו על אל בקץ מעל ישראל וטמאו את המקדש ושבו עד אל, ‘from the House of Peleg who left the holy city (Jerusalem) and were dependent on God, during the period of the transgression of Israel when they defiled the Temple; but they (i.e. the House of Peleg) returned to God’. This parallel gives the distinct impression that the House of Peleg is the sect. After all, they are the ones who, when transgression set in, when the Temple was taken over by Hasmoneans, left and formed a sect dedicated to returning to God.

But if we were to restore the text differently, and accept the readingרשע[י יהוד]ה , ‘the evil [ones of Jud]ah’, it would allow us to see this as a reference to evil members of the sect who attached themselves to the Sadducees.55 In any case, this difficult phrase is likely to remain a matter of debate.

In the interpretation of Nah. 3.10,56 4QpNah 3–4.4.3 states-

פשרו על מנשה לקץ האחרון אשר תשפל מלכותו ביש]ראל . . . [נשיו עילוליו וטפו ילכו בשבי גבוריו ונכבדיו בחרב ]יובדו[.

Its interpretation concerns Manasseh in the final period (end of days) when his kingdom will be brought low in Is[rael . . . ] Its women, children, and infants, will go into captivity. Its mighty ones and honored ones [will perish]57 by the sword.

Nah. 3.10 speaks of the destruction of No-Amon. It tells us that the city went into captivity, that her children were slaughtered, that her honored men were distributed by lot as spoil of war and that her nobles were led off in chains. This fate, according to the pesher, refers to the overturning of the power of the Sadducees, they who are indeed the ‘honored men’ and ‘nobles’ of Israel. The text specifically mentions Israel so as to apply the prophecies directed at No-Amon to the Jewish people.
This text sees the Sadducees as effectively a kingdom, or dominion, which will be destroyed. The text continues to describe the exile of the women and children of the Sadducees, and the slaughter of their elite at the sword.

The final preserved material relevant to our study appears in 4QpNah 3–4.4.5–6, commenting on Nah. 3.11- 58

פשרו על רשעי א[פרים] אשר תבוא כוסם אחר מנשה

Its interpretation concerns the evil ones of E[phraim] whose cup (of destruction) will come after that of Manasseh.

This excerpt is important only in that it understands the destruction of the Sadducees to precede that of the Pharisees, a notion we saw already above. The author interprets Nah. 3.11 as saying to the Pharisees- you too will be overcome and have to flee the enemy, now that the Sadducees have been devastated. To be sure the author(s) of this document had distinctive and consistently worked out ideas on the fate which the Sadducees and then the Pharisees would experience. Unfortunately for this study, little else is preserved of 4QpNah and we hear no more here about the text’s views on the two major sects of Jews of the Second Temple period.

This treatment of the Sadducees, describing them as an aristocratic group augmented by supporters or retainers, is totally negative. Although the details of the sect’s judgment of this group do not appear here, it is clear that certain specific misdeeds, like those of the Pharisees, led the Qumran sect to expect the utter destruction of the Sadducees in the now dawning eschaton. In short, the Sadducees are here seen as the villains.

It is difficult at first glance to reconcile this image with our conclusion relating to the Sadducean character of the founders of the sect and the halakhic traditions of the group. Why does 4QpNah condemn so roundly the very group from which the sect seems to have emerged?

The answer to this question lies in the complex historical processes which affected both the sect and the Sadducees in the years between the founding of the group c. 152 BCE, and the composition of this text, some time after 63 BCE. In the case of the Qumran sect, the evidence of the initial section of the Zadokite Fragments (Damascus Covenant) indicates that the teacher of righteousness, who developed the basic sectarian stance of the group, only entered the picture after the initial break had already taken place (CD 1.10–12).59 Over time, the sect became increasingly radicalized and isolated, while at the same time adopting the apocalyptic messianism and ethical dualism which became its hallmarks. For this reason, it began to look at the Sadducean way from which it had emerged as improper, while still retaining the substratum of Sadducean law which if had brought into the sect in the early years.

In the case of the Sadducees, the processes of change also help to explain the problem. The sect was formed by Sadducees who represented the ‘lower clergy’, and who, therefore, were not Hellenized to a great extent. More Hellenized Sadducees played an increasing role in the Hasmonean dynasty over time. Both Josephus and the baraita’ recorded in the Babylonian Talmud testify to a sharp break with the Pharisees which took place, as we have mentioned, either under John Hyrcanus or Alexander Janneus. By the time of this break, the Sadducees in Jerusalem, as well as their Maccabean colleagues, had come a long way since the days when Jonathan the Hasmonean had instituted adherence to Pharisaic law in the Temple and its service. Now the Sadducees had gained control. It is these Hellenized Sadducees whom our text condemns. Opposition to them comes not from the legal traditions they espouse, but rather from their having strayed from the strict adherence to the Torah required by the sectarians.


4QpNah testifies to the nature of the Pharisees and Sadducees in the period of Alexander Janneus. During his tenure he was seriously challenged by the Pharisees while the Sadducees drew closer to him. From the examination of this document we have been able to confirm the general outlines of the picture of these groups presented in Josephus as well as to gain new details about the episode of Demetrius III Eukerus’s invasion of Judea.

Although little of the text’s critique of the Sadducees survives, we can at least observe their aristocratic character. Yet of the Pharisees so much more can be said. We learn here of the role of halakhic midrash in their method of deriving law, as well as of a system of logical deduction termed talmud. We hear much about the manner in which the leadership of this group allegedly leads the people astray, indicating that they did indeed have a considerable following among the people. For both the Pharisees and Sadducees we hear of the ‘retainers’, those followers who were at the outer fringes of the power elite but who were themselves part of the group in one way or another. In general, we realize that no group of Jews in this period could be expected to embrace such large numbers of people. Rather, they functioned by teaching and influencing, a process in which the Pharisees indeed excelled.

When taken together with 4QMMT and other texts, we can sketch a history of the fortunes of these two groups in the Hasmonean period. In the early days of the dynasty, the Pharisees were allied with the Hasmoneans and their views were dominant. At some point, the break in relations took place and this led to the re-entry of the Sadducees who now were associated with the much more Hellenized Hasmoneans. The Pharisees tried the ultimate power play, perhaps driven by genuine religious motives, but it backfired, leading to execution and exile for many of them. Presumably, the aristocratic Sadducees described in our text then retained power and their rulings were now observed in the Temple in place of the Pharisaic views put into effect in the early Hasmonean period. Finally, and after the period described in our text, we hear of a rapprochement between Salome Alexandra (76–67 BCE) and the Pharisees.

The picture I have painted admittedly differs only in details from that of Josephus and rabbinic sources. For a generation now scholars have complained that we have no contemporary accounts of the Pharisees and Sadducees from the Hasmonean period. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, it turns out, we do have these sources, and they verify the essential historicity of the later accounts. Both for the ideological and religious issues and for those of political history the information of our later sources is confirmed by the Pesher Nahum.

1. For bibliography, see M.P. Horgan, Pesharim- Qumran Interpretations of Biblical Books (CBQ Monograph Series, 8; Washington, DC- Catholic Biblical Association, 1979), pp. 158–59 and E. Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, III.1 (ed. G. Vermes, F. Millar and M. Goodman, with M. Black and P. Vermes; Edinburgh- T. & T. Clark, 1986), p.433. On the language and the biblical text underlying 4QpNah, see J. Maier, ‘Weitere Stücke zum Nahumkommentar aus der Höhle 4 von Qumran’, Judaica 18 (1962), pp. 215–28.

2. On this genre of biblical interpretation see D. Dimant, ‘Qumran Sectarian Literature’, in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period (ed. M. Stone; CRIANT II.2; Philadelphia- fortress Press, 1984), pp. 505–508.

3. See J.D. Amoussine, ‘Éphraïm et Manassé dans le Péshèr de Nahum (4 Q p Nahum)’, RevQ 4 (1963–64), pp. 389–96; J.D. Amusin, ‘The Reflection of Historical Events of the First Century B.C. in Qumran Commentaries (4Q161; 4Q169; 4Q166)’, HUCA 48 (1977), pp. 134–46; D. Flusser, ‘כת מדבר יהודה והפרושים’, Molad 19 (1961), pp. 456–58; idem, ‘פרושים צדוקים ואיסיים בפשר נחום’, G. Alon Memorial Volume (Tel Aviv, 1970), pp. 133–68. It goes without saying that this study will not deal with the many allusions to these sects in other Qumran sectarian texts. Further, the important issue of the relationship of the Essenes of Philo and Josephus to the Dead Sea sect will remain beyond the scope of this paper. As is well known, most scholars see the tri-partite array of groups in this text as equivalent to that of Josephus. Accordingly, they see this text as confirming the identity of the sect as Essenes. In my view, the term ‘Essene’ must be seen as encompassing a variety of groups of which the Dead Sea sect may be one.

4. E. Qimron, and J. Strugnell, ‘An Unpublished Halakhic Letter from Qumran’, in Biblical Archaeology Today (ed. J. Amitai; Jerusalem- Israel Exploration Society, 1985), pp. 400–407, and a different article with the same title, Israel Museum Journal 4 (1985), pp. 9–12 and Plate I.

5. See L.H. Schiffman, ‘The Temple Scroll and the Systems of Jewish Law of the Second Temple Period’, in Temple Scroll Studies (ed. GJ. Brooke; Sheffield- JSOT Press, 1989), pp. 245–51; Y. Sussmann, ‘חקר תולדות ההלכה ומגילות מדבר יהודה—הרהורים תלמודיים ראשונים לאור מגילת מקצת מעשה התורה’, Tarbiz 59 (1989–90), pp. 11–76.

6. L.H. Schiffman, ‘The New Halakhic Letter (4QMMT) and the Origins of the Dead Sea Sect’, BA 55 (1990), pp. 64–73; idem, ‘Miqsat Ma’aseh Ha-Torah and the Temple Scroll’, RevQ 14 (1990), pp. 435–57.

7. J. Strugnell, ‘Notes en marge du volume V des Discoveries in the Judaean Desert of Jordan’, RevQ 7 (1970), p. 205.

8. Horgan, Pesharim, pp. 161–62.

9. Contrast the attempt to maintain a date well within the Roman period for the events described in the pesher in G.R. Driver, The Judaean Scrolls, The Problem and a Solution (Oxford- Basil Blackwell, 1965), pp. 289–93.

10. For an estimate of the size of the entire scroll and the contents of the columns which were not preserved, see Horgan, Pesharim, p. 160.

11. The restoration is that of Horgan, Pesharim, p. 170 who suggests two alternatives- ממשלת דורשי החלקות and עצת דורשי החלקות.

12. So Horgan who added the initial ו to the restoration suggested by J.M. Allegro, Qumrân Cave 4, I (4Q158–4Q186) (DJD, 5; Oxford- Clarendon Press, 1968), p. 37. Strugnell, ’Notes’, p. 206, restores בני אשמ]תם .This reading seems too short, however.

13. Restoration of this line is with Horgan, Pesharim, p. 170.

14. For MT לבנון the lemma has לבנן in line 5, yet the pesher in line 7 agrees with MT.

15. Restored with Allegro, Qumran Cave 4, p. 38. It is also possible to read דמי]טריס which is the view of Haberman and Yadin (Horgan, Pesharim, p. 173).

16. For this phrase see Dan. 8.21; cf. 10.20, 11.2.

17. For this expression, seeעדת דורשי החלקות בירושלים , ‘the congregation of the interpreters of smooth things in Jerusalem’ , mentioned in 4QpIsac 23.2.10, cf. 1QH 2.15, 32 (Horgan, Pesharim, p. 173).

18. So NJPS.

19. Many scholars read לביא in the lemma (Horgan, Pesharim, p. 172; Strugnell, ‘Notes’, p. 207) in which case the pesher would have based its interpretation on the frequent confusion ofו and י in Qumran and other contemporary manuscripts.

20. Following A. Dupont–Sommer, ‘Le Commentaire de Nahum découvert près de la Mer Morte (4Q p Nah)- Traduction et notes’, Semitica 13 (1963), p. 57; Horgan, Pesharim, p. 172.

21. See the discussion of this episode in F.M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies (Garden City, NY- Doubleday, 1961), pp. 122–27.

22. The events are summarized in E. Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, I (ed. G. Vermes, F. Millar and M. Black, with P. Vermes; Edinburgh- T. & T. Clark, 1973), pp. 223–24. See especially, pp. 224–25 n.21, which refers to 4QpNah.

23. See the analysis of Maier, ‘Weitere Stücke’, pp. 234–37.

24. See L.H. Schiffman, The Halakhah at Qumran (Leiden- Brill, 1975), pp. 54–60.

25. Cf. C. Albeck, ששה סדרי משנה, סדר מועד (Jerusalem- Mossad Bialik; Tel Aviv- Dvir, 1954), p.477.

26. Cf. Horgan, Pesharim, p. 175.

27. The scroll has חורה for MT חריו.

28. The occurrence of this word above in line 4 is most probably a scribal error, not a double pesher.

29. The scroll has ומעונתו for MT ומענתיו.

30. I cannot accept the suggestion of Y. Yadin (‘Pesher Nahum [4Q pNahum] Reconsidered’, IEJ 21 [1971], pp. 1–12; cf. idem, The Temple Scroll [Jerusalem- Israel Exploration Society, 1983] I, pp. 373–79) that our text approves of crucifixion as a means of punishment. This would be the case even if 11QT 64.6–13 did allow this punishment for informers. For the vast literature on crucifixion in these two texts, see Horgan, Pesharim, pp. 176–79. See especially J.M. Baumgarten, Studies in Qumran Law (Leiden- Brill, 1917), pp. 172–82. Note also M.J. Bernstein, ‘Midrash Halakhah at Qumran? 11Q Temple 64.6–13 and Deuteronomy 21.22–23’, Gesher 7 (1979), pp. 145–66, and כי קללת אלהים תלוי’ (Deut. 21.23)- A Study in Early Jewish Exegesis’, JQR 74 (1983), pp. 21–45.

31. 4QpNah has הדמים for MT דמים.

32. The authors of our document seem to have regarded the unmentioned term הלכה as derived from the verb ‘to go’, and understood it to mean ‘way of life’. For the alternative derivation from the Aramaic הלך, a land tax (cognate to Akkadian ilku), see S. Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (New York- Jewish Theological Seminary, 1962), p. 83 n. 3.

33. I cannot agree with Horgan, Pesharim, p. 182, who explains that ‘the interpretation is shifting from a historical thrust to an eschatological focus’. The sect saw its own history and its own times as eschatological. For this notion, see 4QMMT C, 21–23.

34. The numerous differences with MT found in this citation are discussed in Horgan, Pesharim, pp. 182–83.

35. Following Horgan, Pesharim, p. 183, who notes this usage in post-biblical Hebrew, as opposed to Deut. 28.22, ‘feverish heat’. See E. Ben Yehuda, מלון הלשון העברית (New York- T. Yoseloff, 1959), III, p. 1755, where all the examples cited are medieval.

36. Cf. the prohibition on informing to a foreign nation in 11QT 64.6–9.

37. The lemma’s text,וגויתם , is certainly an error since the pesher has בגוית (Horgan, Pesharim, p. 183).

38. Alternatively, the text has been taken to refer to the period during the reign of Salome Alexandra when the Pharisees returned to power. See Amusin, ‘Historical Events’, pp. 143–45; A. Dupont-Sommer, ‘Lumières nouvelles sur l’arrière-plan historique des écrits de Qumran’, Eretz-Israel 8 (Sukenik Volume, 1967), pp. 25*–36*.

39. Cf. J. Licht, ‘המונח גורל בכתביה של כת מדבר יהודה’, Bet Miqra 1 (1955–56), pp. 90–99.

40. Cf. War 1.4.6 (§§96–98).

41. For textual differences with MT in the lemma, see Horgan, Pesharim, pp. 183–84.

42. Restored with Dupont-Sommer, ‘Le Commentaire’, pp. 58, 77; cf. Strugnell, ‘Notes’, p.207.
43. Cf. Horgan, Pesharim, pp. 183–84.

44. For this list, but including also the prophets, see Jer. 2.26 and 32.32 where they appear with third person plural possessive suffixes, as in our text.

45. Amusin, ‘Historical Events’, p. 145. On the Pharisees in Josephus, see J. Neusner, From Politics to Piety- The Emergence of Pharisaic Judaism (Englewood Cliffs, NJ- Prentice Hall, 1973), pp. 49–66.

46. The extensive bibliography on this term is reviewed in Horgan, Pesharim, p.184.

47. See B.Z. Wacholder, ‘A Qumran Attack on the Oral Exegesis? The Phrase אשר בתלמוד שקרם in 4Q Pesher Nahum’, RevQ 5 (1964–66), pp. 575–78.

48. See Rashi to b. Suk. 28a, s.v.תלמוד , in the uncensored Venice edition. Later editions, as a result of Christian censorship, substitute גמרא in this passage.

50. Although MT has מנא אמון, the lemma in 4QpNah hasמני , ‘from’, here meaning ‘than’ (reading with Allegro, Qumran Cave 4, p. 39 and Horgan, Pesharim, p. 188). That this is the correct reading rather than מנו = phonetic spelling of מנא) is most likely in view of the omission of נא from the pesher.

51. Restoring with Horgan, Pesharim, p. 188.

52. Cf. Amusin. ‘Historical Events’, p. 144.

53. For parallels, see E. Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, II (ed. G. Vermes, F. Millar and M. Black, with P. Vermes; Edinburgh- T. & T. Clark, 1979), pp. 404–405.

54. According to Carmignac’s placement of the fragments; J. Carmignac, É. Cothenet and H. Lignée, Les Textes de Qumran, traduits et annotés, II (Paris- Letouzey & Ané, 1963), p. 92; cf. Strugnell, ‘Notes’, p.210.

55. Restored with Horgan, Pesharim, p. 189.

56. J. Licht, ‘דפים נוספים לפשר נחום’, Molad 19 (1961), p. 455.

57. For textual differences with MT, see Horgan, Pesharim, p. 190.

58. Restored with Horgan, Pesharim, p. 190. Strugnell and, apparently, Carmignac- יפולו.

59. For textual differences with MT, see Horgan, Pesharim, p. 190.

60. This picture is not changed by the additional lines which in the Qumran manuscripts precede the text preserved on p. 1 of the medieval copy. See B.Z. Wacholder and M. Abegg, A Preliminary Edition of the Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls- The Hebrew and Aramaic Texts from Cave Four (Washington, DC- Biblical Archaeology Society, 1991), p. 1 (4QDa 1, 1–17) and p. 4 (4QDb 2, I, 1–14).

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