The Impurity of the Dead in the Temple Scroll, Lawrence H. Schiffman.


Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls- the New York University conference in memory of Yigael Yadin (ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman), JSOT Press, Sheffield 1990, p.135-156.

The appearance of Professor Yigael Yadin’s thorough editions of the Temple Scroll, in Hebrew and in English,1 has presented scholars dealing with this text with a goldmine of material to be utilized in its exegesis. The work is so detailed and thorough that often we must content ourselves with taking up questions the editor set forth and trying in some small measure to add to the work that he did. It is in this spirit that the following study is offered.2

Prohibition on Entering the City of the Sanctuary

The bottom of column 45 of the Temple Scroll enumerates those not permitted to enter the sacred precincts of the city of the sanctuary (11QT 45.17)-

And any who are impure with the impurity of the dead (tame’ la-nefesh) may not enter it (the city of the sanctuary) until they are purified.3

This prescription requires that the one who had contracted ’the impurity of the dead’ remain outside the city of the sanctuary. Yadin took the ‘ir ha-miqdash to mean the entire city of Jerusalem, while B. Levine,4 following L. Ginzberg’s analysis of the Zadokite Fragments,5 took this term to include only the Temple Mount.6 In any case, the person in question was prohibited from these sacred precincts until he had completed the purification rituals to be analyzed below.

11QT 45.11–18 is a list of those who because of the impurities they had contracted were excluded from the ‘ir ha-miqdash.7 Yadin8 calls attention to the importance of Num. 5.2 for understanding this enumeration. There we find that the person afflicted with sara‘at (the gonorrheic), and the tame’ la-nefesh (one impure from contact with the dead) are sent forth from the camp (mahaneh). Further, verse 3 tells us that this law applies to both males and females. The words asher ’ani shokhen be-tokham, ’since I dwell in their midst’, found in this verse, are the basis of 11QT 45.14 which reads ki ’ani ’adonai shokhen be-tokh bene yisra’el, ’for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the children of Israel’.

The expression teme’ nefesh occurs in Lev. 22.4–5, which is a list of those priests who may not eat of the sacrificial offerings. Those disqualified are- the one afflicted with sara‘at; the gonorrheic; one who comes in contact with one afflicted with impurity of the dead (teme’ nefesh); one who had a seminal emission;9 and one who comes in contact with certain ’creeping things’ (sheres), or with a (dead) person, which would render him impure.

The limited list of those excluded from the camp in Num. 5.2 was widened by our author through a midrash based also on Lev. 22.4–5. The Leviticus list was added to the list in the Numbers passage to produce a catalogue of those prohibited from entering the city of the sanctuary. In so doing, the author extended the priestly legislation to all Israel. Afflictions which had disqualified priests from eating of sacrifices now excluded Israelites entirely from the holy precincts.

It is this analogy to the eating of sacrifices by the priests that will explain the contrast with tannaitic sources noted by Yadin. An anonymous statement in T. Kelim Bava’ Qamma’ 1.810 rules that one afflicted with impurity of the dead may enter the Temple Mount. The Tosefta specifically terms this the mahaneh lewiyyah, the camp of the Levites. The tannaim grappled with the exegetical difficulty of determining the meaning of the word mahaneh, ’camp’, in the various biblical injunctions. They solved this difficulty by assuming the existence of three concentric camps in the desert period. Based on this assumption, they divided the city of Jerusalem into three zones. The innermost was the camp of the Divine Presence. It extended from the courtyard of the Israelites and innerward. The second was the camp of the Levites, extending to the entire Temple Mount. The third and outermost was the camp of Israel, including the area within the city gates of Jerusalem.11 According to the Tosefta, one afflicted with the impurity of the dead was only excluded from the Temple itself, the mahaneh shekhinah, the camp of the Divine Presence. To the author of the Temple Scroll, the analogy with the laws of disqualification of priests (Lev. 22.4–5) taught him that such people were to be excluded from the city of the sanctuary. 12

The Law of Burial

11QT 48.7–10 discusses the prohibitions on excessive mourning based on Deut. 14.1–2; Lev. 19.28, and 21.5. At that point, the text turns to laws of burial. 11QT 48.10–14 commands-

And you shall not defile your land. So do not do as the nations do; they bury their dead anywhere. They even bury (them) inside their houses. Rather, set aside places within your land in which you shall bury your dead. Between (every) four cities, you shall aportion a place for burial (to bury in them).

The phraseology of lines 11–12 is closely parallel to 11QT 51.19–29-

You shall not do within your land as the nations do- sacrifice, and plant Asheroth, and erect pillars.

Random burial was said to defile the land in the same way as did idolatry This concept is traced by our text to Num. 35-34, we-lo’ tetame’ ’et ha-’ares. Indeed, verse 33 discusses the way in which innocent blood pollutes the land.13 The entire chapter deals with the Levitical cities and the cities of refuge, and is in fact a description of settlement patterns. Random burial defiles the land by causing those passing through to be rendered impure. Similar concepts no doubt lie behind the function of the metahare ha-’ares, ‘the purifiers of the land’, in 1QM 7.2. Ezek. 39.11–16, pertaining to the battle of Gog and Magog, is the scriptural basis for the need to cleanse the land after the Messianic war.14

Among every four cities there should be one cemetery.15 This law assumes that burial within the city limits is forbidden, and that interment is to take place only in the designated areas. The tannaim understood burial to be forbidden in walled cities,16 and the amoraim took it as forbidden within the boundaries of the Levitical cities,17 except in the case of an accidental murderer.18 Otherwise, within certain regulations, burial was permitted within city limits.19 Tannaitic Jews, therefore, were permitted to bury randomly, except that markers had to be placed to avoid the defilement of people who might pass by.20 Our law from the Temple Scroll differs in that it attempts to avoid the defilement of the land by restricting burial to designated cemeteries. Yadin observes that the scroll assumes that a grave conveys uncleanness just as the body itself. Evidence can certainly be seen for this in 11QT 50.11, to be taken up below.21

This requirement must be understood in context. Immediately following, 11QT 49.14–17 prescribes that places be set aside ‘in every city’ for those with sara‘at or other plagues, for gonorrheics, and for menstruant women and those who had just given birth, so that such people would not defile the cities. All cities, not simply the city of the sanctuary, had to be maintained in a state of Levitical purity. This is a major stringency when compared to the rabbinic tradition which enjoined these laws only in the Temple itself. What is operating here, as in the previous law, is the process of extension of laws of priestly and Levitical purity to all of Israel and to the entire land as all Israel is ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Exod. 19.6).

The Impurity of the House and its Contents

The Temple Scroll then treats the impurity contracted by a house in which someone had died and the effects of this impurity on people, foods, and vessels that are in the house. 11QT 49.5–10 provides-

When a man dies in (one of) your cities, any house in which a dead man shall die shall become impure for seven days. Anyone who is in the house and anyone who comes into the house shall be impure for seven days. And any food upon which water shall be poured shall be impure. Every drink shall be impure. And earthenware vessels shall be impure, and everything which is in them, for every pure man (person) shall be impure. But the open (vessels) shall be impure for every man of Israel, (along with) every drink which is in them.

This law is based on Num. 19.14–15 and Lev. 11.33–34. In order to analyze these regulations, we shall have to subdivide the law into its various provisions- first, impurity of the house, second, impurity of whoever is in the house, third, impurity of foodstuffs that had been wet and of liquid foods, and fourth, impurity of earthenware vessels and their contents.

Impurity of the House

Whenever a person dies in one of the cities, the house is to be impure for seven days. The scroll begins by following Num. 19.14. Three major changes are introduced, however. First, the mention of ‘in your cities’ is added, indicating the notion in the scroll that all Israel will be settled in an orderly manner in cities throughout the land.22 Second, the word ’ohel, ‘tent’, of the biblical text is replaced by bayit, ‘house’, as is the case in the Septuagint translation.23 A third change is the introduction of a concept not found in either of the scriptural passages on which our law is based. Our scroll states that the house itself is impure for seven days, while Num. 19.14 limits itself to the contents of the house. Since 11QT 49.11–14 provides a previously unknown rite for the purification of the house, it is certain that in our passage the scroll refers to the impurity of the house itself, not just its contents.

The source for the notion that the house itself is impure must be Num 19.18. There it states, ‘A person who is clean shall take hyssop, dip it in the water, and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the vessels and people who were there . . . .’24 From this verse it would appear that the tent must have been rendered impure, as otherwise, why sprinkle it with the waters of purification? This must have led the author of the scroll to conclude that the tent, or house in his language (we will return to the difference below), was to be considered impure. This is nowhere stated explicitly in the Torah.
That the tent was rendered impure is also the conclusion reached in tannaitic sources from this same verse. Sifre Be-Midbar 12925 states that the tent is susceptible to impurity. This would mean that any time a person died in a tent, it would have to be purified by sprinkling with the waters of the red heifer. Indeed, the waters of purification, me niddah, mentioned below in line 8, are the waters of the ashes of the red heifer which were employed in biblical and Second Temple times to effectuate purification from the impurity of the dead.

Because this ruling is followed by Maimonides,26 Yadin presents it as ‘standard rabbinic law’. We shall have to ask, however, if in fact this was the only view among the tannaim. There is strong reason to believe that it was only a minority view. M. ’Ohalot 1.327 contains a dispute between Rabbi Akiva and the sages (’ameru lo, ’they said to him’) in which he counts the tent in a chain of impurity, but they discount it. It may be that the dispute is about this very principle. These sages reject the notion that the tent is itself impure.28 Therefore, the view found in the Sifre may simply be that of Rabbi Akiva. The Temple Scroll has adopted the view which was later espoused by this particular tanna.

Still to be dealt with is the Temple Scroll’s substitution of bayit for ’ohel. This is clearly intended to widen the legal ramifications of the Pentateuchal legislation.29 Two strands of exegesis can be observed regarding this question. Maimonides rules that these laws apply only to a tent, but in no way to a building.30 Abraham ibn Ezra and Moses Nahmanides (to Num. 19.14) say that they even apply to a building, with the proviso that a building, if attached permanently to the ground (mehubbar), does not itself contract impurity. Whereas Maimonides placed the emphasis on the word ’ohel, and therefore excluded buildings, the other commentators focused on the movable nature of the tent and so included any movable structure, even a house. Karaite literature testifies to the notion that the house is to be taken as fully identical to the biblical tent for purposes of the law of impurity of the dead.31

Impurity of Whoever is in the House

The next clause specifies that whoever is in the house shall be impure for seven days. The author has adapted Num. 19.14 with changes of word order and with the substitution of bayit for ’ohel. Both the verse and our text might be seen as dealing with either people or things. It is possible, however, to confirm that Yadin’s interpretation of the text is correct from comparison with the purification ritual described below which states- ‘and as for persons, anyone who was in the house or anyone who entered the house shall bathe…’ (11QT 49.16–17). Our author, therefore, has indicated that in his view, Num. 19.14 clearly refers to people.

There is a major difference between the interpretation found in the Temple Scroll and that of the tannaim. Whereas the author of our scroll assumes that both clauses in Num. 19.14, kol ha-ba’ ’el ha-’ohel ve-khol ’asher ba-’ohel, refer to people, the sages take the first clause to refer to people and the second to refer to both people and things.32 Indeed, the reversal of the word order by the author of the Temple Scroll may be intended to make the point that he takes even the second clause, kol ’asher ba-’ohel (second in the Bible and first here) to refer exclusively to people. This analysis is confirmed by the manner in which he rearranged the phrases in lines 16–17 as well.

Impurity of Foodstuffs

The text next indicates that any liquid (mushqeh) and any foodstuffs upon which water has been poured shall be impure.33 This passage is dependent on Lev. 11.34 and 38, verses that concern what the Mishnah calls the shemonah sherasim, ‘the eight creeping things’ (M. Shabbat 14.1). If these fall on certain items, they render them impure. In the list are included foodstuffs that had been moistened and any potable liquid (mashqeh) that was in a vessel. Further on in verse 38 we are told that even seed grain, if moistened with water, becomes susceptible to this form of impurity.34

The parallel with this verse forces us to conclude that the mushqeh of our passage is equivalent to the mashqeh of Leviticus. Our passage indicates that solid food is susceptible to impurity of the dead if it has been moistened, and that liquids are also susceptible to impurity.35 Indeed, Yadin’s desire to see mushqeh as moistened foodstuffs is a result of the parallel with rabbinic sources. In rabbinic halakhah there are seven liquids (mashqin) that are seen as functioning in the same way as water. These are- dew, water, wine, oil, blood, milk, and bees’ honey.36 In other words, rabbinic law widens the possibility for susceptibility to impurity to include additional liquids in the moistening process. It is impossible to tell from our text if the author took water literally, or if he widened its interpretation to include other liquids. In any case, he certainly included liquids as susceptible to impurity. Yadin’s interpretation would mean that liquids were excluded from the purview of this law, and this is highly unlikely.

Rabbinic exegesis requires that in order to be susceptible to impurity, solid foods must be in a vessel (cf. Lev. 11.33). The same is taken to be the law for liquid foods. Rabbinic exegesis derived from here that once food has become moistened, it is forever susceptible to impurity even when it dries. Further, liquids susceptible to impurity themselves could render a solid susceptible if it were moistened with them.37

Impurity of Earthenware Vessels and their Contents

The text next prescribes that earthenware vessels that are in the house, as well as their contents, shall be rendered impure. The contents of such a vessel are impure for the ‘pure man’ the ’ish tahor. Yadin observed that the biblical term ‘pure man’ (Num. 19.9, 18) is used here to refer to one who observed the laws of Levitical purity and impurity in his daily life, what the tannaitic sources term a haver. In the case of open vessels, the liquids in them are impure for all Jews. These laws apply only as long as the dead body itself is in the house, since the purification rites are to begin immediately upon its removal.

It is probable that the first clause refers even to a closed vessel, and that our text means to say that even the contents of a closed vessel are impure for the ‘pure man’. On the other hand, for the average Jew impurity is only contracted in the case of an open vessel, and applies to both solid and liquid food. Indeed, the force of the first phrase would be even liquid. In Yadin’s view this refers to food that had been moistened.

The first prescription, regarding the closed vessel, derives from Lev. 11.33, dealing with cases in which the source of impurity (the sheres) actually fell into the vessel. Our text, however, takes as the equivalent the case of a vessel that was in a building with a dead body, probably since corpse impurity was assumed to be of the highest degree. The clause regarding the open vessels is derived from Num. 19.15, which says that an open vessel becomes impure when in the tent with a dead person. Our author expands this to mean that not only is the vessel impure, but its contents are as well. Yadin has noted that our passage agrees with Sifre Be-Midbar 12638 in taking this verse to refer to earthenware vessels.

Purification of the House

The scroll now turns to the rites for purifying the house (11QT 49.11_13)-

And on the day on which they take the dead body out of it, they shall sweep39 the house of all defilement of oil, wine, and moisture of water. Its floor, walls, and doors they shall scrape. Its locks, doorposts, thresholds and lintels they shall wash with water.

This section represents original composition by the author. Nonetheless, this material is based on Num. 19.18, which provides that the tent (here the house) is to be sprinkled along with the vessels and those people who were in the tent. Our author apparently took the requirement to sprinkle to indicate washing of certain key areas of the house. Only these are to be washed, however. The rest it is sufficient to sweep and scrape.

It is probable that the notion of scraping was borrowed by the author from the treatment of a house found to have been infected with a plague. Such a house is to be scraped (Lev. 14.41), although the terminology used there is different (the hif’il of qs‘). The purification of the house in that passage served as a partial analogue for our author. Confirmation comes from the use of qirot ha-bayit in Lev. 14.37 which was the basis of we-qirotaw in 11QT 49.12. 40

Specifically to be swept out is the ‘defilement’ (tig’olet) of oil, wine, and moisture of water. The root g’l is used in the Temple Scroll to denote ‘the uncleanness conveyed by liquids’.41 In this sense its meaning is very similar to that of tm’, the usual root for impurity. Yadin concludes that the house was to be purified because ‘it was made unclean by liquid elements spread in it, whose degree of uncleanness is very high’. In other words, he suggests that the author of the scroll understood the reason for this ritual to be that liquids within the house would spread the impurity of the dead throughout. This reasoning is in consonance with the concept known in tannaitic law as well as in the Dead Sea sectarian corpus that liquids are more susceptible to impurity and convey impurity more easily than solids. Yadin further notes the essential agreement of our passage with the difficult CD 12.15–18 and its confirmation of the emendation to shemen.42

Those parts of the house to be scraped are the floor, walls, and doors. Thus, that which is, in the words of the tannaim, mehubbar le-qarqa‘, ‘attached to the ground’, is considered susceptible to uncleanness.43 Whereas the tannaim explained the impurity and need to sprinkle the tent in Num19.18 as resulting from the movable nature of the tent, as opposed to a permanent house which to them could not be rendered impure, our text interprets the tent as totally equivalent to the house. Indeed, Sifre Be-Midbar 126,44 based on Num. 31.20, specifically excludes straw, branches, wood, stones, and earth from contracting impurity because they are considered to be attached to the ground. Our text, however, considers that which is attached to the ground to be susceptible to impurity.

L. Ginzberg, in commenting on CD 12.15–18, discusses at length the history of the tannaitic law exempting that which is ‘attached to the ground’ from becoming impure. Ginzberg shows that some tannaim took the impurity of the dead to apply even to that which was attached to the ground. He suggests that this issue may be at the heart of the Pharisee-Sadducee controversy of M. Yadayim 4.7. The view that only that which was not attached to the ground was susceptible to impurity applied only to impurity of the dead.45

Targum Ps. Jon. (Palestinian Targum) to Num. 19.14 sides with the minority opinion that Ginzberg had discovered in tannaitic sources. The author of the Temple Scroll apparently held the very same view- the impurity of the dead applied even to that which was attached to the ground. For this reason, he could consistently substitute house for tent, and rule, as in our law, that the very floor, walls, and doors were themselves in need of purification.46 In addition, Karaite sources also attest to the application of the laws of impurity of the dead to stationary houses, and to the wood, stone, and earth of which they were constructed.47

The text prescribes that the locks, doorposts, thresholds, and lintels be washed with water. Yadin finds difficulty with the notion that the first list would indicate things to be scraped while the second, those to be washed. He therefore suggests that the import of the text is that the second group should also be scraped and that everything should then be washed with water. He is motivated to interpret the text in this manner since otherwise, ‘It is hard to see why the author differentiated between the items in l. 12, which require only scraping, and those in l. 13, which need only washing’.48 There is enough reason to dispel Yadin’s view on the grounds of syntax alone. Furthermore, scraping is appropriate to the house itself, by analogy with the house afflicted with a plague in Lev. 14.34–53. Yet the furnishings listed in the latter clause require washing, since they are considered to be like vessels (kelim, cf lines 15–16), in that they are not considered ‘attached to the ground’, to borrow the tannaitic terminology.

Purification of the Contents of the House

11QT 49.13–16 discusses the purification of certain items inside the house that were exposed to impurity while the dead body was there-

On the day on which the dead body shall leave it, they shall purify the house and all its vessels, (including) millstones and mortar, all vessels made of wood, iron, and bronze, and all vessels which may be purified. And clothing, sacks and skins shall be washed.

This law takes up the second element of the list in Num. 19.18, ‘all the vessels’, and spells out their appropriate regulations. The first vessels listed as needing purification are the stone vessels, millstones and mortar (cf. Num. 9.8 for the combination of these two types of vessels). Yadin notes that these are actually the two most common types of stone vessels that would be found in the house. He assumes the millstones to be of the hand mill.49 Most important, this is in marked contrast to tannaitic halakhah, according to which stone vessels do not contract impurity.50 CD 12.15–18 considers stones (or stone vessels) to be susceptible to impurity of the dead (tum’at ha-‘adam.)

The remaining items are based on a list in Num. 31.20–25. This passage describes the purification rituals associated with the booty from the Israelite victory in the battle against Midian. Immediately beforehand (verse 19) the purification of the soldiers from the impurity of the dead is described. A similar list appears in Lev. 11.32 in reference to the impurity of ‘creeping things’ (sherasim). The author of the Temple Scroll constructed his combined list out of Num 31.20–25 and Lev. 11.32–33, drawing the metals from Numbers and the sacks from Leviticus. Vessels of wood, clothing and leather appear in both passages. The author omitted the ma’aseh ‘izzim of Num 31.20 from his list. Note, however, that he included it in the list in 11QT 50.16–17 which omits ‘sack’. Our author did not bother to enumerate all the metals, leaving out the tin and lead of Numbers, as well as the silver and gold. Of the six metals in Num. 31.22 our text mentions only iron and bronze, presumably because these were the ones found in most households. No doubt, the writer would also take the others to be susceptible to impurity as the Torah indicates. His mention of ‘all vessels which can be purified’ is probably a reflex of Lev. 11.32 ‘every vessel with which work can be done’, although this may intend to exclude the earthenware vessels (Lev. 11.33) which must be shattered.51 Later on, in discussing the case of a woman in whose womb there was a dead fetus, the text specifically indicates that such vessels are to be broken (11QT 50.17–19). This generalization is no doubt a summary of Num. 31.23.

How were these items to be purified? Num. 31.22–23 indicates that metals were to be purified by being passed through fire and then submerged in the waters of purification (me niddah).52 Those metals which could not be passed through fire, presumably because of softness, like silver and gold, were to be purified only by means of water. Rabbinic tradition saw this text as a description of the process for rendering vessels kosher which had been used for non-kosher foods.

The purification ritual for vessels of wood appears only in Lev. 11.32, which prescribes that such vessels are to be immersed in water, and by sunset they are considered pure. Leviticus prescribes the same ritual for clothing, leather, or sack. Yet the context of Num. 31.20 which commands the purification of clothing, leather, and products of goat’s hair seems to indicate that the ritual for these is the same as that for people, involving ablutions on both the third and seventh days. Our author followed the literal sense of the Torah which indicated to him that the one-day ritual was for the impurity of ‘creeping things’ )sheres), whereas the impurity of the dead required a week-long ritual of ablutions on the third and seventh days. It is probable that, as in the case of purification of humans, he also required that ablutions take place on the first day as well. Further, Leviticus required immersion while Numbers required sprinkling. Our author required washing (yitkabesu).

Purification of Persons

The scroll now outlines the rites of purification for people who were in the house with the dead body. 11QT 49.16–21 states-

And as for persons, anyone who was in the house or anyone who entered the house shall bathe in water and wash his clothes on the first day. And on the third day, they shall sprinkle over them waters of purification, and they shall bathe and wash their clothing and the vessels which are in the house. And on the seventh day they shall sprinkle a second time, and they shall bathe and wash their clothes and their vessels. And by evening they shall become pure of the impurity of the dead so as to be permitted to touch all their pure stuff (food).

The scroll prescribes that the requirement of purification applies both to those who were in the house when the death occurred, and to anyone who entered the house while the dead body was still in it. The purification ritual is as follows- on the first day he must bathe and launder his clothes; on the third day he is sprinkled with the waters of purification of the red heifer and he is to wash his clothes as well as any vessels in the house; on the seventh day, sprinkling, bathing, and washing of clothes and vessels take place. By evening, the person is ritually pure. 53

Yadin calls attention to the fact that the first stage, the need to immerse and wash on the first day, is ‘not explicit in the biblical passages referring to the uncleanness of the house of a dead person’. The purification rites for one who comes in contact with a dead body are found in Num. 19.11–12. Verse 14 specifies that the very same law applies when a person dies in a tent. In other words, it tells us that the purification ritual of verses 11–12 applies in this case as well. Verses 11–12 prescribe a period of seven days of impurity. Purification is to take place on the third and seventh days. From verse 18 we learn that the waters are to be sprinkled with hyssop. Further evidence for this procedure comes from the battle narrative of Num. 31.19 and 24. Yadin suggests that the author prescribes immersion on the first day in order to allow the impure person to purify himself of any previous impurities so as to ‘prepare himself for purification by sprinkling etc. on the third and seventh days’.54 Purification on the morrow after battle is enjoined in 1QM 14.2–3. Yadin alluded there to Num. 31.2ff. He explains the contradiction between the one-day ritual of the scroll and the seven-day rite of the Torah as follows- the scroll refers to the return from the battlefield to the camp while the Torah refers to return to the camp of Israel.55 A one-day purification period is sufficient to reenter the military camp, but to enter the camp of Israel purification must last seven days.

Yadin catalogues the various impurities from which one is purified in the evening, after washing one’s clothes and bathing (cf. Lev. 11.25; 14.8–9; 15.5–11). He suggests that these provide the basis for the author’s conclusion that by analogy immersion was required on the first day in our case as well.56 This, however, is only part of the explanation. Num. 19.18, immediately before the commandment of ablutions on the third and seventh days, commands sprinkling on the tent, vessels, and people in it. In view of the provisions of verse 19, verse 18 seems redundant. Our author took it as referring to the first day, that day on which impurity had been contracted. Verse 18, then, provided him with scriptural warrant for ablutions on the first day. From the sources (suggested by Yadin) our author learned that washing, and not sprinkling, was to be the form of the ablutions.

J. Milgrom has investigated the extra ablutions commanded on the first day in this and other laws in the Temple Scroll. Milgrom’s view is that the purpose of this immersion is ‘to remove a layer (or degree) of impurity and would suffice to re-establish nonsacred contacts with persons and objects outside the city of the sanctuary’.57 In Milgrom’s words, it serves to ‘diffuse the impurity of its contagious power and allow its bearers to remain in the city’.58 In the case of the Temple city, however, Num. 5.2–3 required the expulsion of the impure. That one who had contracted the impurity of the dead was permitted to remain in the other cities was derived by an exegesis of Num. 19.14–22. Baumgarten, writing even before the publication of 4Q Ordc, pointed to the possibility that Milgrom’s suggestion might be confirmed by this text. 4Q Ordc has since been published.59 M. Baillet has interpreted the text to be dealing with the problem of food for a man undergoing the seven-day rites of purification. In Baillet’s view, the text requires an initial immersion after which he may partake of pure food. This interpretation does indeed seem possible from examination of this text, although a thorough study of the materials relating to ritual purity and impurity in Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 7 is a desideratum.

Sprinkling, bathing, and the washing of garments are required on the third and seventh days. Num. 19.19, however, requires that only sprinkling take place on the third and the seventh days (cf. Num. 31.19). Bathing and the washing of clothes were required only on the seventh day. Exod 19.10–15 prescribes a three-day purification period preparatory to the revelation at Mount Sinai. Included in this ritual is the washing of clothes. There the clause ve-khibesu simlotam, ‘Let them wash their clothes’,60 occurs, the basis of vi-yekhabesu salmotam(ah) in our text. Indeed, there are other indications of the influences of this passage on the laws of the scroll (cf. Num. 31.19)61. The author must have understood we-qiddashtam in verse 10 to refer to the washing of the body. The Exodus passage, then, would have included both bathing and the laundering of clothes on the third day.
A number of observations made by Yadin bear repeating here.62 The concept of tevul yom, one who immersed during the day, does not exist in the scroll. According to tannaitic halakhah, there was an entire class of people who immersed during the day and became pure only at sunset. The tevul yom, one who had immersed but for whom the final day of purification would not be complete until sunset, was considered only slightly impure. He was still denied access to sancta, the eating of terumah and sacrificial offerings, until sunset, but otherwise was considered pure after immersion.

To the author of the Temple Scroll, purification of any kind was only achieved at sunset. This is emphasized by the statement that ‘by evening they become pure’. The law in CD 11.21–22 outlawing the entry of the teme’ kibbus, one who became impure and who required immersion, into the house of prostrations (bet hishtahawot), perhaps a designation for the Temple or a house of worship, may be in agreement with that of the Temple Scroll. If so, CD 11.21–22 would refer to one who had immersed, but who still awaited sunset.63 In any case, the Temple Scroll rejects the concept of tevul yom, designed as it was to help married men, immediately after immersion, to have access to the ‘non-sacrificial purities abounding in Jerusalem’.64 Finally, Yadin notes that the requirement of rites on the first day means that the rites of the third and seventh must actually take place on those days, unlike tannaitic halakhah which allows the rites to commence on any day following the contraction of impurity.

Impurity of the Dead in an Open Field

A fragmentary passage at the beginning of column 50 must have discussed those who had had contact with a dead body itself, following Num. 19.11–13. Thereafter the scroll turns to the problem of contact with impurity of the dead in the open (11QT 50.4–9)-

And any man who touches in the open field the bone of a dead man, or one slain with a sword, or a corpse, or the blood of a dead man, or a grave shall cleanse himself according to the statute of this regulation. But if he does not purify himself according to the regulation of this law, he is impure—his impurity is still within him. Therefore, any man who touches him shall wash his garment(s), bathe, and become pure by evening.

Two matters are dealt with here- first, one who comes in contact with the dead himself and the purification rituals appropriate to him; second, one who comes in contact with a person who has contracted the impurity of the dead. The intention of the words ‘according to the statute of this regulation’ is to apply to this law the same purification ritual applied when the impurity was contracted by being in a house with a dead body (11QT 49.16–21).65

These laws are taken from Num. 19.13, 16–22. Based on these passages, the author has created a list of the sources of impurity of the dead. From verse 16 he took the person who was killed (slain by the sword), one who died naturally, the bone and grave. In verse 13, he interpreted be-nefesh ha-’adam as referring to blood. The author based this on Lev. 17.14 and Deut. 22.23.66 In this case the Temple Scroll agrees with later rabbinic tradition.67 The author added the word met in regard to the bone, specifying that it must be of a dead man. Yadin explained that the author’s purpose was to indicate that this law does not apply to the bone of a living person. Indeed, Targum Ps. Jon. to Num. 19.16 understands it to mean that this applies even to the bone of a live man as does Sifre Be-Midbar 127.68

The text then turns to one who does not purify himself according to the stated regulations. This passage is based on Num. 19.12–13 and 20. Such a person becomes a source of impurity.
The final provision regards one who touches the person who had contracted impurity of the dead, either in a building or in the open field, and who has not yet completed the required purificatory rituals. This passage is based in Num. 19.22.69 Again the author underlines that purification is not complete until sunset. Further, so as to remove any doubt that the correct procedure will be followed, he stresses the need to bathe and wash one’s clothes.

The Woman Carrying a Dead Fetus

The scroll now addresses the question of a woman who is carrying a dead fetus in her womb (11QT 50.10–19)-

And if a woman is pregnant and her child dies in her womb, for as long as it is dead within her, she shall be impure like a grave. Any house which she enters shall be impure, as well as all its furnishings, for seven days. And anyone who comes in contact with it shall be impure70 until the evening. And if he comes into the house with her, he shall be impure for seven days. And he shall wash his clothes, and bathe on the first day. And on the third day he shall be sprinkled and wash his clothes and bathe. And on the seventh day he shall be sprinkled a second time and launder his clothes and wash, and when the sun goes down he will be pure. And (as for) all the furnishings and clothes and skins and all work of goats’ (hair), you shall do to them according to the regulation of this Law. But every earthenware vessel you shall break, for they are impure and they can never be purified again.

Several matters are taken up in this law. After the initial statement that the woman carrying a dead fetus in her womb imparts impurity of the dead like a grave, we learn that she renders a house impure like a dead body and, therefore, that those who enter the house must undergo the same purification rituals as were described for cases of impurity of the dead above. One who touches the house is to be impure until the evening. Further, the furnishings of the house must be purified in the same way.

The details of the purification rites are identical to those described above, except in some minor details in formulation that were already mentioned. What is important here is the basic principle, the notion that the fetus imparts impurity like a dead body even though surrounded by its mother. The text specifically explains that the mother functions like a grave in which the body, although surrounded and closed in, still imparts impurity. Allusion to the grave calls to mind Num. 19.16, discussed in the previous section. It is because of the derivation of this law from that verse that it is placed immediately after the law referring to one who comes in contact with a grave in an open field
Yadin has noted the similarity to our law of a clause in M. Hullin 4.3, ha-’ishah she-met weladah be-tokh me‘eha, ‘the woman whose fetus has died in her womb’. The anonymous Mishnah rules that if a midwife touches that dead fetus, she contracts impurity of the dead. The mother, on the other hand, remains pure until the fetus is expelled. Commentators on the Mishnah have sought to explain that the impurity of the midwife is only a rabbinic ordinance, to guard against error if the fetus is partially expelled, in which case it definitely imparts impurity. They have relied on the amoraic principle that an enclosed source of impurity (tum’ah belu‘ah) does not impart impurity.71

Sifre Be-Midbar 12772 records a dispute regarding the interpretation of the words ‘al pene ha-sadeh, ‘on the surface of the field’, in Num. 19.16. Rabbi Ishmael concludes from these words that a dead fetus in its mother’s womb does not impart impurity. Rabbi Akiva understands these words in an entirely different way. The formulation of the argument as a dispute leads to the conclusion that Rabbi Akiva, at least in the view of the redactor, did not accept the view of Rabbi Ishmael. Hence we can suggest the existence of an alternate view according to which the fetus did impart impurity even when in its mother’s womb. Indeed, B. Hullin 72a attributes such a view to Rabbi Akiva, based on the dispute we have cited. Our scroll takes the same view.

Although the later commentators saw the impurity of the midwife in this Mishnah as rabbinically derived, the Sifre Zuta’ quotes the Mishnah almost verbatim, and says that this law is biblically derived from Num. 19.11f.73 According to this view, the Bible specifically went out of its way to point out that one who touched a dead fetus while in the womb was rendered impure with impurity of the dead.

The sources surveyed show that in tannaitic times the ability of such a fetus to impart impurity was viewed as having derived from biblical exegesis. Rabbi Ishmael saw it as a biblical injunction that the fetus did not impart impurity whereas the anonymous source of the Sifre Zuta’ understood the impurity of the midwife who touched the fetus to be biblically derived also. From the Sifre we gather as well that the view taken by our scroll, that the fetus was a source of impurity even to those who came in contact with the mother (like a grave), was also known. Such may actually have been the view of Rabbi Akiva.


Regarding the impurity of the dead, the Temple Scroll sought to extend the priestly legislation of the Bible to all Israel. At the same time, the scroll employed its brand of analogical biblical exegesis to construct a detailed system of purification rituals that went beyond what the Bible itself seemed to require. In comparing the Temple Scroll with tannaitic sources, we often found it to hold views considered and rejected by the tannaim later on. While several parallels with the sectarian scrolls from Qumran were noted, the laws concerning the impurity of the dead are devoid of any particular characteristics that would be associated with sectarian life as known from the other documents. The stringencies of our text could as well have been part of the life of any of the various sects of the Second Commonwealth period.


1. Megillat Ha-Miqdash, 3 vols. (Jerusalem- Israel Exploration Society, 1977); The Temple Scroll, 3 vols. (Jerusalem- Israel Exploration Society, 1983).

2. For lexical notes on the texts examined in this paper, see E. Qimron, ‘Le-Millonah shel Megillat Ha-Miqdash’, Shenaton 4 (1980), 247, 254, 255, 262.

3. Yadin translated- ‘And anyone . . . until he cleanses himself’. It is apparent from the plural verbs, however, that ve-khol must have been used in a plural sense.

4. ‘The Temple Scroll- Aspects of its Historical Provenance and Literary Character’, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 232 (1978), 14–17.

5. An Unknown Jewish Sect (New York- Jewish Theological Seminary, 1976), 75f. Ginzberg first expresses the view followed by Yadin identifying the ‘ir ha-miqdash as the entire city of Jerusalem. Then he proposes the view followed by Levine.

6. J.M. Baumgarten, ‘The Pharisaic-Sadducean Controversies about Purity and the Qumran Texts’, Journal of Jewish Studies 31 (1980), 159 n. 11 and J. Milgrom, ‘“Sabbath” and “Temple City”, in the Temple Scroll’, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 232 (1978), 26f., have accepted the views of Yadin.

7. See L.H. Schiffman, ‘Exclusion from the Sanctuary and the City of the Sanctuary in the Temple Scroll’, Hebrew Annual Review 9 (1985), 301–20.

8. Temple Scroll, ad loc.; cf. I, 293.

9. 11QT 45 drew its reference to the seminal emission from Lev. 22.4–5. Most important are the words ‘ad ’asher yithar found in this verse. This must be the basis of the phrase ‘ad ’asher yitaharu (11QT 45.17).

10. Cf. M. Kelim 1.8, Sifre Be-Midbar 1 (ed. H.S. Horovitz [Jerusalem- Wahrmann, 1966], p. 2), B. Pesahim 66b–67a.

11. T. Kelim Bava’ Qamma’ 1.12; B. Zevahim 116b; cf. Maimonides, H. Bi’at Ha-Miqdash 3.2–3.

12. To Levine, the ‘ir ha-miqdash is equivalent to the tannaitic mahaneh lewiyyah, the Temple Mount, whereas Yadin takes the ‘ir ha-miqdash as equivalent to the mahaneh yisra’el, the entire city of Jerusalem.

13. Cf. Sifre Be-Midbar 161 (ed. Horovitz, p.222).

14. Y. Yadin, The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness (Oxford- Oxford University Press, 1962), 154, 290.

15. Yadin explained the requirement of one cemetery for every four cities as following Num. 35.7 which speaks of forty-eight Levitical cities. In Yadin’s words (I, 323), ‘As for the number of cities (four), it seems to have been established to align with Num. xxxv-7, in other words, four cities per tribe’. Yet this interpretation is extremely difficult in light of verse 8 which explicitly states that the Levitical towns be assigned in proportion to the size of the tribe (so Targ. Ps. Jon.). This matter is taken up by Nahmanides who follows tannaitic tradition (B. Bava’ Batra’ 122a) and explains that the number of cities was equal for each tribe, but that verse 8 was fulfilled because of the differing importance of the cities. On the other hand, he admits that according to Josh. 21 the number of cities given to the Levites from each tribe’s territory was not even. It is possible, however, that like the tannaim, the author of our scroll looked forward to a perfectly planned urbanization according to which the Levitical towns would be evenly distributed among the tribes.

16. M. Kelim 1.7; T. Kelim Bava’ Qamma’ 1.14 (cf. S. Lieberman, Tosefet Rishonim [Jerusalem- Bamberger and Wahrmann, 1937–39], II, 135; III, 190–91; contrast H. Albeck, Shishah Sidre Mishnah, Seder Tahorot [Jerusalem- Bialik Institute, 1957], ‘Hashlamot We-Tosafot’ to M. Kelim 1.7).

17. P. Makkot 2.7 (32a), P. ‘Eruvin 5.3 (22d), B. Makkot 12a.

18. M. Makkot 2.7; cf. Albeck, Seder Neziqin, ‘Hashlamot’, for parallels.

19. Yadin cites T. Bava’ Batra’ 1.11 and P. Nazir 9.3 (57d).

20. M. Mo’ed Qatan 1.2.

21. See R. de Vaux, Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls (London- Oxford University Press, 1973), 45–48, 57–58 which seems to indicate that the Qumran sectarians did not follow the burial regulations of the Temple Scroll but rather placed their cemeteries according to convenience. Cf. E.M. Meyers, Jewish Ossuaries- Reburial and Rebirth (Rome- Biblical Institute Press, 1971), and bibliography.

22. For a different explanation, see Yadin, I, 325.

23. Yadin, I, 325f.; II, 213.

24. New Jewish Publication Society translation.

25. Ed. Horovitz, p. 166. The English edition of Yadin, I, p. 326 has the quotation marks improperly placed, so that Yadin’s words, ‘even if it was fixed in the ground’ became part of the quotation.

26. H. Tum’at Met 5.12

27. Cf. T. ’Ohalot 1.3; Sifre Zuta’ ed. J.N. Epstein, Tarbiz 1 (1929/30), 77; ed. Horovitz, p. 314; and S. Lieberman, Sifre Zuta’ (New York- Jewish Theological Seminary, 1968), 22–24.

28. So A. Goldberg, Massekhet ’Ohalot (Jerusalem- Magnes, 1955), to M. ’Ohalot 1.3. C.f. Albeck, Seder Tahorot, ‘Hashlamot,’ ad loc., J. Neusner, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Purities, pt. 4 (Leiden- E.J. Brill 1974), 20–27.

29. Yadin, I, 326.

30. H. Tum’at met. 5.12.

31. L. Nemoy, ‘The Pseudo-Qumisian Sermon to the Karaites’, Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 43 (1976), 83–84 (translation), 103–104 (Hebrew text).

32. Sifre Be-Midbar 126 (ed. Horovitz, pp. 161–162).

33. On yussaq, cf. Yadin, II, 213. The ‘Mishnah’ of Qumran he refers to is now known to be 4Q Miqsat Ma‘aseh Ha-Torah, to be published by J. Strugnell and E. Qimron. On this passage, cf. Baumgarten, ‘Pharisaic-Sadducean Controversies’, 163f. Yadin, II, 213f. (cf. also II, 203 to 11QT 47.6–7) states that the mushqeh is food which has become moistened. This seems unlikely since the scroll does not repeat itself as a rule.

34. These laws are treated in 11QT 50.20–51.5. Cf. Yadin, I, 338–341.

35. Note that Lev. 11.34, ‘which are in a vessel’, has been omitted by the scroll.

36. M. Makhshirin 6.4–5, M. Terumot 11.2–3, cf. Sifra’ to Lev. 11.34.

37. Rashi to Lev. 11.34.

38. Ed. Horovitz, p. 163. Cf. M. ‘Eduyyot 1.14 and Yadin, I, 327.

39. On the use of kbd in the sense of sweep, see M. Berakhot 8.4 (Yadin).

40. Cf. Yadin, II, 215.

41. Yadin, I, 329.

42. J.M. Baumgarten, Studies in Qumran Law (Leiden- E.J. Brill, 1977), 88–97 (‘The Essene Avoidance of Oil and the Laws of Purity’, Revue de Qumrân 6 (1969), 559–64. M.R. Lehmann has called attention to the traditional Jewish custom of pouring out water which was in a house in which death occurred. He sees this as a survival of the view of our scroll (‘The Temple Scroll as a Source of Sectarian Halakhah’, Revue de Qumrân 9 [1979], 584f.).

43. M. Shevu‘ot 6.6, cf. M. Kelim 12.2.

44. Ed. Horovitz, p. 162.

45. Sect, 81f., 146f., 351–55.

46. Yadin, I, 328f. Yadin notes that purification of the gates and city wall occurs in Neh. 12.30.

47. Judah Hadassi, in Hoenig, ‘Rules’, p. 565, cf. S. Hoenig, ‘The Sectarian Scrolls and Rabbinic Research’, Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series 59 [1968/9], 64–66.

48. II, 215.

49. On which cf. M. ’Ohalot 8.3.

50. M. Kelim 10.1, M. ’Ohalot 5.5 (cf. Albeck, Seder Tahorot, p. 14), and a baraita’ in B. Shabbat 58a quoted secondarily in B. Menahot 69b).

51. Yadin, I, 330.

52. Cf. Num. 19.9, 13; cf. Ibn Ezra to Num. 31.23.

53. On the ceremony of the red heifer, see J Milgrom, ‘The Paradox of the Red Cow (Num. xix)’, Vetus Testamentum 31 (1981), 62–72. J. Milgrom, ‘Further Studies in the Temple Scroll’, Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series 71 (1980/1), 98f. suggests that sprinkling of clothes and vessels also took place on the third and seventh days in accord with Num. 19.18; cf. 31.32. His citation of the Karaite Keter Torah actually argues against his view that such sprinkling of objects is the only possible literal sense of the bible.

54. I, 333f.

55. War Scroll, 226. Cf. Milgrom, ‘Studies’, 514.

56. I, 332.

57. In the words of Baumgarten, ‘Pharisaic-Sadducean Controversies’, 160.

58. ‘Studies in the Temple Scroll’, Journal of Biblical Literature 97 (1978), 515.

59. 4Q 514, M. Baillet, Qumrân Grotte 4, III, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, VII (Oxford- Clarendon Press, 1982), 296–98.

60. New Jewish Publication Society.

61. Yadin, II, 217.

62. I, 332–34.

63. It may be that Josephus (War 2.129) ascribes this view to the Essenes, but this passage is inconclusive.

64. ‘Pharisaic-Sadducean Controversies’, 159. Most significantly, Baumgarten counts this among a number of laws in which the Qumran scrolls show agreement with the views attributed to Seduqqim in tannaitic sources. See my ‘The Temple Scroll and the Systems of Jewish Law of the Second Temple Period’, Temple Scroll Studies. Papers presented at the International Symposium on the Temple scroll, Manchester, December 1987, ed. G. Brooke (Sheffield- JSOT Press, 1989), 247 and ‘Miqsat Ma‘aseh Ha-Torah and the Temple Scroll’, to appear in the volume of Revue de Qumran dedicated to the Groningen conference.

65. We cannot accept the view of B.Z. Wacholder (The Dawn of Qumran [Cincinnati- Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 1983], 18f.) that this phrase refers to ‘the title of the work as a whole’. Rather, it is a reflex of similar usage of Torah in the priestly literature.

66. Cf. Joseph Caro, Kesef Mishneh to H. Tum’at Met 2.12.

67. Baraita’ in B. Hullin 72a.

68. Ed. Horovitz, p. 165. Cf. the Rabbinic sources cited in Yadin, I, 334.

69. Cf. Rashi.

70. E. Qimron, ‘New Readings in the Temple Scroll’, Israel Exploration Journal 28 (1978), 171 reads wtm’ for Yadin’s ytm’.

71. Cf. Albeck, Seder Qodashim, ‘Hashlamot’, ad loc.

72. Ed. Horovitz, p. 164. Cf. Moses David Abraham Treves Ashkenazi, Sifre ‘im Perush Toledot ’Adam, Be-Midbar (Jerusalem- Mosad Harav Kook, 1972), ad loc. for the interpretation followed below.

73. Ed. Horovitz, p. 306.

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