'NARRATIVE EXEGESIS'IN THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
Pázmány P. Catholic University, Hungary
The use of biblical texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls is represented at a very large scale. Explicit citation, pesher-form (i.e. explicit citation and its interpretation), non-explicit citation, paraphrase of biblical verses, and modelling texts af
ter biblical works all mean use of biblical texts at different levels. The reason of the conscious use of earlier texts in any culture is that the author of the 'later' text has a special interest in the 'former' one(s), owing to its content, the person o
f its author, or the tradition represented in the earlier text. It is well known that some Biblical traditions had a distinguished place in Qumran tradition (e.g. the tradition of the Exodus and the theme of the entering the land; the theme of the righteo
us and the wicked in Psalms). Qumran pesharim reflect the idea of their authors that certain periods of history, groups, and persons, depicted in the texts commented by them parallel to those of their own age, and they identified events of the commented t
exts with contemporary ones.
So-called 'narrative exegetical texts' among Qumran works represent a special form of the use of biblical texts. Three of them were selected for an analysis in the present paper: the historical survey in the Damascus Document (CD II.2-III.12),
4Q252, and Genesis Apocryphon (1Q Gen Ap).
RETELLING THE BIBLE
These texts were written with an obvious exegetical purpose; they are re-tellings of biblical stories (mostly the narratives of the Genesis). Their length and style are very different: Genesis Apocryphon is a lenghty narrative on two Biblical p
ericopae, adding lively descriptions, dialogues, monologues, revelations to the Biblical stories. 4Q252 is a rather mysterious text intervowen of quotations, near quotations and rewordings from Genesis, rewordings of other Biblical texts, and free additio
ns. The short survey of CD II.2-III.12 of certain stories of the Genesis is but a series of references to them, with some additions. However, they have some common characteristics which can be summarized as following:
They all follow the order of the biblical text, using the text of Pentateuch and also other biblical texts. They often include additions to the biblical stories, even longer ones. On the other side, they retell only select stories of the biblic
al tradition, and omit other ones. They are discontinuous narratives, that is, they leap from one story to another while not trying to establish logical links between the stories; the reader can understand the stories only on the basis of the biblical tex
t (a good knowledge of Genesis is recommended).
Additions to the biblical narratives are usually meant to have been written to enlighten some problem raised by the story (e.g. chronological problems; this aim is clear as to certain additions to 4Q252). A system of omissions and additions in
a longer text is more difficult to explain: why the authors explain only certain parts of an older text? Why did not write the authors a continuous commentary to the Pentateuchus or to a part of it? The texts certainly were selected from a special point o
f vue, in order to serve special purposes.
The historical survey of the Pesher Genesis begins with the antediluvian age (the text makes reference to the story of the Watchers known from the book of Enoch 6-11) and ends with the period of the Egyptian slavery; the first reference of 4Q25
2 is made to the history of antediluvian mankind, and the text known to us ends with a series of pesher-s on the Jacob's blessing, with references to the stories of the sons of Jacob. From Genesis Apocryphon only two pericopae are known. The first one dea
ls with Noah's story (events preceding his birth, the Flood, events following the Flood). The second one retells the story of Abraham, from his stay in Bethel until his victory over the league of the four foreign kings (Gen 12:8-15:4).
The beginning of the present text is the 15th or 16th column of the original manuscript. Considering the proportions of the extent of the narrative of the present text and that of the biblical text which served as a basis for the narrative of t
he Genesis Apocryphon one can conlude that the Noah-narrative was probably the beginning of the pericopae. It might have been preceded by a text of different character (like the laws of the Damascus Document preceded by the narrative of the Admonition). I
n the Genesis there is no narrative on the birth of Noah. The tradition which serves as a basis for the Noah-narrative of Genesis Apocryphon is the genealogical list of Gen. 5:28-29 with the names of Noah and his ancestors.
Another question of Genesis Apocryphon is the relation of the two pericopae between them. The part between the story of the Flood and the division of the earth and the story of Abraham is missing (col. XVIII). Considered the length of the gap (
one column) it does not seem to be sufficient for containing the story of Babel (Gen. 11). Supposedly the narrative of Genesis Apocryphon leaps from the story of Noah to that of Abraham, that is the text is a discontinuous narrative.
The above exegetical narratives have a shared characteristic, namely that all begin with the period of the antediluvian mankind, and in each of them there is a reference to the story of the Watchers/Fallen Angels. The three works originate prob
ably from different ages. The full text of CD is known only from medieval manuscripts. Its Qumran manuscripts are dated between 75-50 BCE, and the work itself might have been written some earlier, about 100 BCE. 4Q 252 is not dated; the only exemplary of
Genesis Apocryphon known to us originates from the end of the 1st c.BCE - beginning the 1st c. CE, but the work might have have a much older origin. It was written in Aramaic, with many Hebraisms. Aramaic works of Qumran usually reflect a good knowledge o
f Mesopotamian lore, and some manuscripts of Aramaic works belong to the oldest layer of Qumran manuscript tradition; an early origin for Geneis Apocryphon is not excluded. The three texts has different character. It is not probable that the choice of the
above theme of the antediluvian mankind would be accidental, and would be resulted from an individual preference of the authors of these works; they might be arranged by some common principle.
Two of these texts were analyzed by me in previous articles; in the following I will give a short survey of the structure of these narratives.
The reason for the choice of the pericopae of the historical survey of the Damascus Document (CD II.2-III.12) is formulated in the introduction of the survey, in a biblical citation from Num 15:39, with transformations:
twnz yny(w hm#) rcy twk#xmb rwtl )lw
(II.16) ".. and not follow after thoughts of the guilty inclination and after eyes of lust. The expressions of hm#) rcy and twnz yny) serve as a key to the meaning of the exa
mples mentioned in the survey. As to twnz, it can have two meanings:
A/ in a primary sense, as violation of any taboos of sexual character
B/ in a figurative sense (as in many biblical metaphors), as infidelity to God, the practice of cults of alien gods.
The two meanings are in fact merged, since biblical poetical language uses the metaphor 'husband and wife' for the relation of God and Israel. In the survey of CD each example for twnz is introduced by the form
ule "for many went astray through these" (or variant).
1/ The first example is the story of the Fallen Angels (II.17-21). The pericopa is referred to according to the tradition of 1Enoch, and not according to Gen 6:1-4, since the events are mentioned as
wlpn Mym#h yry(- "the heavenly Watchers fell". Their period is characterized as a symbol of disobedience to the divine commandments, because "they did not keep the commandments of God they were caught a
s were their children". Neither in the text of the Damascus Document, nor in 1Enoch there is explicit statment of disobeying the Watchers some special commandment of God. The commandments which could be cited on this matter are those forbidding relat
ion or mixture of persons or things belonging to different categories (e.g. Lev 19:19, from the Holiness Code). As to twnz meaning transgression of taboos of sexual character, according to Enochic tradition the Watche
rs 'defiled themselves' with the women which lead one to presuppose that they disobeyed some prescription concerning sexual purity (1Enoch 7:1).
The sons of the Watchers are mentioned, too, in 1Enoch as transgressors of the Law: "And they began to sin against all birds and beasts of the earth, and reptiles, ... and the fish of the sea and to devour the flesh of another; and they we
re drinking blood" (1Enoch 7:5-6), which is a violation of the commandments given by God, concerning eating and blood in Gen 9:3-6.
2/ The second historical symbol is the Biblical tradition about the sons of Noah and their families (III.1).
Mytrkn Mh hb Mhytwxp#mw xn ynb w(t hb - "the sons of Noah and their families erred in this".
The tradition we know of the 'sons of Noah and their families' is Gen 9:18-27, the story of the drunkenness of Noah, the sin of Ham, and the curse of Canaan instead of Ham. The story refers to the violation of a prohibition of sexual character.
Since it is the breaking of a commandment, the tradition referred to in the text of the Damascus Document is an example of both: of the disobedience to the commandments and of twnz.
3/ The third symbol is the age of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - a sinless period, due to Abraham who kept the commandments.
4/ The period of the sons of Jacob is interpreted as an age of erring in disobedience or in twnz again: Mb w(t bq(y ynb - "Jacob's sons erred in it" (III.4-5
Again there is no mention for the reason of such an evaluation of the age. The tradition, which may have served as a basis for this interpretation - the transgression of a sexual taboo - is the laying of Reuben with Bilhah, the concubine of his
father (Gen. 35:22).
5/ Symbol 5 is the example of the Egyptian captivity, when "their children in Egypt walked in the stubbornness of their hearts (Mbl twryr#b), in taking counsel against the commandments of God
(l) twcm l( C(whl), and doing each one as he thought right
(wyny(b r#yh #y( tw#(lw)" (III.5-10)
The report on the sins committed in Egypt is a general one, and it can be interpreted as infidelity to Yahweh. Since the end of the period of the Egyptian slavery is not marked, it cannot be excluded that the period of the wandering in the wild
erness - a period of rebels against and infidelity to Yahweh - was also included here. The addition to the sins "and they ate blood" may be a later one, referring to the violation of the Noachic laws (Gen. 9:3-6, the prohibition of consuming blo
od). Thus, the sins committed in Egypt probably consist in infidelity to Yahweh and violation of the prohibition of consuming blood.
Thus periods of sins are related to violation of sexual taboos, transgression of Noachic laws, and idolatry. Violation of sexual taboos is to be find in four of five examples.
4Q 252 has a different structure from that of CD II.-III.12. The text can be divided into two parts that are of different character: a narrative part (which is not continuous, it consists of a series of references of biblical narratives)
, and a series of pesher-s (i.e. of interpretations of biblical citations, introduced by the formula l( wr#p). In the pericopae of the narrative part biblical text is used in various manners. However, the whole text b
ears a homogeneous character; it seems to be arranged in a sequence, having a consistent structure throughout. The text of the manuscript of 4Q 252 seems to be divided into paragraphs. In each paragraphs there are two pericopae or, respectively, two peshe
rs (except the paragraph IV.1-2 referring only to Amalek). The pericopae and the pesher-s illustrate examples of opposite meanings. The content of the paragraphs is following:
1/ The introducing sentence refers to the history of the antediluvian mankind, and the rescue of Noah (with calandrical additions about the time of the events of the Flood), his 'landing' (I.1-II.3);
2/ the curse of Canaan, his subjection to his relatives (background: the violation of a sexual taboo by his father who "saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brethren outside", Gen. 9:22) and the arrival of Abraham i
n Canaan, the covenant of God with him (Gen. 15) (II.5-13);
3/ the sin of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah (background: the violation of a sexual taboo, homosexuality, Gen. 19) and the Aqedah (Abraham merits the covenant), the blessing of Isaac (Gen. 22) ([II.14]-III.22);
4/ Oracle on the future; it seems to form a kind of dividing-line in the text. It is a citation from Deut 25:19, and an oracle about the annihilation of Amalek, enemy of Israel (IV.1-2).
5/ Citation from the Blessing of Jacob, and disapproval of Ruben because he had violated a sexual prohibition having a forbidden relationship with the concubine of his father (cf. Gen. 34:22), and citation from the same biblical text, an oracle
on the eternal reign of Judah, blessing on the other sons of Jacob (IV.3-7).
Obviously, the series of Pesher Genesis is comprised of contrasting traditions about the sinners and the righteous. The sin is connected with the violation of a sexual taboo; the punishment of the sinner is destruction or subjection. The reward
of the righteous is rescue from danger, and/or taking possession of land.
As to the first example of the first paragraph, the sin of the antediluvian mankind was, in all probability, the relation of the Fallen Angels with the daughters of men, known from biblical and apocryphal tradition as well. The sin of the Watc
hers was considered in the Enochic tradition as impurity resulting from violation of some prescription concerning sexual purity (see above).
Genesis Apocryphon is, as it was told, a narrative of novellistic character. The length of the episodes related in it are very different from those of their parallels in the Genesis; we can read detailed descriptions of things which in G
enesis are mentioned only shortly. The narrative follows the sequence of biblical stories, adding to them new episodes, while omitting other ones (the story of Babel, Gen.11). The narratives of Genesis Apocryphon are clearly focused on special points of t
he tradition of Genesis. These parts are worked out in great detail in the narrative of ApGen, even short parts belonging to other genres (the description of Sarah's beauty, a 'wasf') are inserted. In spite of the many additions of literary character the
work can be characterised as an exegetical narrative.
Earlier the text was characterized by G. Vermes as an instance 'of the primitive haggadah and of the unbiased rewriting of the Bible'. J. Fitzmyer regarded it 'as the prototype of midrash'. Since the work is fragmentary, it is not easy to recon
struct the aims of its author and the exact meaning of the text, and one have to recognize that "at least certain amount of bias nevertheless seems to be present in the Genesis Apocryphon". Such bias are to make the biblical text more logic, and
to portrait the characters (to present Abraham and Sarah in a better light, and Pharaoh in a worse one from those depicted in the Genesis). The geographical descriptions added to both pericopae in the Genesis Apocryphon may also serve special aims.
On the other hand, J. Fitzmyer characterized the text as the prototype of midrash. Two methods of the midrash are known: peshat and derash, literal and homiletical exegesis. Genesis Apocryphon is not a peshat explaining the plain or literal mea
ning of the commented text. As to decide if it is a homiletic work, one have to see the exact structure and meaning of the two pericopae.
After the recent publication of the hitherto unpublished parts of the work the structure and bias of the narrative became more apparent than before. The text is paragraphed; the paragraphs reveal the divisions of the narrative, and help to reco
gnize the structure of the text. The arrangement of the narrative is the following (major additions and changes made compared to Genesis are marked by bold):
oracle probably concerning the events wich are to be told in the book,
Dialogue of Batenosh and Lamech (subject: the origin of the child who is to be born to Batenosh).
Enoch's revelation on Noah's origin (subject: Enoch confirms Noah's righteous origin).
Enoch's revelation, oracle on future sins.
'The book of the words of Noah', self-narrative. (subject: Noah's righteousness. Examples of Noah's marriage and the marriages of his sons, "according to the eternal law [which] the Highest [commanded] to mankind").
Noah's vision on the deeds of the Watchers (subject: the sins of the Watchers).
Revelation given to Noah in a dream by the 'Great angel'(subject: probably an account on the sinful deeds of the mankind and on Noah's righteousness, revealed to Noah and written by him). In the account probably the deeds of the antediluvian
mankind and those of Noah are opposed. The part ends with Noah's thanksgiving.
Noah's self-narrative about his own electhood, and how he was informed about the coming destruction of the earth.
Going into the ark(?) - (the Flood) VII-IX
Noah's nocturnal vision. Mention of Noah's sons, and a praise to the Eternal King.
Noah leaves the ark, the sacrifice to atone for the earth, details of the sacrifice.
Revelation given to Noah who stands at the entrance of the ark
Noah walks the earth, thanksgiving for the renewment of the earth; mention of the sinners; mention that God saved a righteous.
Revelation to Noah by God: Noah's rule over the earth; dietary laws
Noah plants vineyard and drinks wine.
Symbolic vision on animals, materials, heavenly bodies, and an oil-tree.
Interpretation of the vision: Noah and his sons identified with trees (a cedar-tree and three willows)
Interpretation of the vision, probably on the destiny of the peoples provenant of Noah's sons.
Symbolic vision: a man.
Interpretation of the vision.
Noah's awakening after his drunkenness(?)
Geographic description, Japhet's inheritance
Geographical description, the inheritance of Sem's sons??
[vacat?], XVII.7?-15; 16-19
Geographical description, Sem divides his part among his sons.
The part beginning with col. XIX relates stories of the tradition about Abraham (the illegible part of the text - col. XVIII - is not long enough to contain another pericopa, so Gen. 11, the story of Babel was probably left out of the narrative
of Genesis Apocryphon). The narrative about Abraham is a paraphrase of Gen 12-15. The structure of the narrative is following (major additions and changes made in Genesis Apocryphon are marked by bold):
Abraham's monologue on his building of an altar [in Bethel]; his way to Hebron, through the 'holy mount' Moriah
Abraham's travel to Egypt (the cause is famine); entering the land of Egypt through the Carmon River, "one of the heads of the river (Nile)".
Abraham's monologue on his dream in the night of his entering the land of Egypt.
Abraham's dialogue with Sarah: Abraham narrates his dream to Sarah, and interprets it.
Narrative on the Pharaoh's men coming 'Á. szavai és felesége miatt; they give gifts to Abraham and ask for his wisdom; Abraham reads them 'The Book of the Words of Enoch'.
[vacat?], XX.1-8; 8-11
Description of Sarah's beauty (wasf); the king fell in love with Sarah and wants to kill Abraham; Sarah says that Abraham is his brother; Sarah is taken to Pharaoh by force.
Abraham's monologue; he prays God to megbüntetni the Pharaoh of Zoan. ("may he not have power in this night to defile my wife away from me", i.e. to make her unclean for me); narrative on Pharaoh and his court being smitten with a
pestilent spirit; after two years sorcerers are sent in order to remove the plague.
Horqanos' monologue: he appeal to Abraham for laying of hand. Loth discloses that Sarah is Abraham's wife, and the plague can removed only if Pharaoh releases Sarah.
Dialogues: Horqanos reports the Pharaoh the cause of the plague; Pharaoh's dialogue with Abraham. Gifts to Abraham and the release of Sarah.
Abraham's monologue over his way back to Canaan; Abraham rebuilds the altar in Bethel; thanksgiving of Abraham for coming back "to this land".
Abraham's monologue on the departing of his nephew Loth (Loth goes to the Jordan's valley then settles in Sodom). Abraham stays in the hill-country of Bethel and grieves on Loth's leaving.
Abraham's monologue on his vision of night (the land which God will give to him and his progeny will be shown him from Ramat-Hazor);
Abraham's journey to Ramath-Hazor; description of the borders of the land (from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates; Abraham journeys along the borders of the land; Abraham settles down at the oaks of Mamre; building of an altar in Mamre, bu
rnt offering and meal offering; his friendship with the three Amorite brothers (cf. Gen. 14:13).
Narrative on the campaign of the five foreign kings, with geographical additions.
Narrative on the defeat of the Canaanite kings of Sodomah, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim and Bela` (cf. Gen. 14:1-10).
Narrative: Loth's shepherd reports to Abraham that Loth was taken into captivity; Abraham overthrows the four kings (with geographical additions); Abraham and Melkizedek (cf. Gen. 14:11-20)
Dialogue of Abraham and the king of Sodomah.
Dialogue of Abraham and the king of Sodomah (cf. Gen. 14:21-24).
Abraham's vision ten years after he left Haran: divine revelation about divine help.
Abraham's words about his childlesness and that Eliezer will be his heir (cf. Gen. 15:1-4).
SCHEME: the paragraphs reveal short units of the narrative of Genesis Apocryphon. The rhetoric is varied (narrative, monologue, dialogue). The narrative on Noah revolves around thre themes:
1/ Noah's birth and the sins of the antediluvian mankind.
2/ The events of the Flood
3/ The division of the land after the Flood among Noah's sons and grandsons
Two of the narratives on the three themes (nr. 1 and 3) are additions to the narrative of the Genesis. The author of Genesis Apocryphon not only adds new elements to the narratives of the Genesis, but retells also events narrated there in a spe
cial way: they are preceded by a revelation given in a speech or in a vision (the revelators known from the text are God, Enoch, and a 'great angel'), and by the reflexion of one of the characters of the narrative (monologues). So events are presented in
various forms, from various angles, by various characters of the narrative. The extent of the additions is considerable. The greatest part of the additions deals with the question of Noah's origin. Lamech questions his wife Batenosh if the child she is ex
pecting is not from him but from some of the Watchers (Nyry(). She is arguing that the child to be born is from Lamech and not from any of the Watchers. The problem behind their debate is the question of impurity of B
atenosh. The mention of the Watchers refers to the book of Enoch which is the source of the tradition about the Watchers who came to the earth, married 'the daughters of men' and fathered giants (1Enoch 6-11). According to the story the relation of the Wa
tchers and the earthly women was impure and brought t the earth impurity, sins and plagues (1Enoch 7:1-6). In the Genesis Apocryphon the answer to Lamech's question is definitely negative. Not only Batenosh argues for her not being committed adultery, but
her statment is verified following to the dialogue of the couple by the revelation of Enoch: Noah is of righteous origin, he is not an offspring of any Watcher. The fact of Noah's righteousness is confirmed again and again in the revelation of the 'great
angel' and in Noah's second monologue in which he contrasts himself with the Watchers and their offspring (V.29-VII.5; VI.12-VII.6; VII.1-IX).
In the narrative on the Flood there is an important addition in Genesis Apocryphon: following the Flood Noah atones for the world (X.13), and an oracle is given on his future rule on the earth (XII.16). The geographic descriptions following in
the third part of the narrative (Noah walks around the land; the division of the land by Noah, then by his sons, XI.10-14, XVI.9?-XVII.19) mean the fulfilment of this oracle. The overall bias of the pericope on Noah in Genesis Apocryphon is to bear witnes
s on Noah's righteousness and his right to be promised and to take the land into possession.
The structure of the story on Abraham and Sarah shows certain similarities with that of the story on Noah. It is set into a geographical frame. The beginning is Abraham's building of an altar in Bethel. He leaves Bethel for Hebron, then for Egy
pt, and later, after having returned to Bethel lives again there. He receives the revelation on the land to be given him near Bethel. Genesis Apocryphon gives a detailed description on the land to be inherited by Abraham (XXI.10-14).
Another group of additions and rewriting in the story serve enlighten the motif of Sarah's being taken by the Pharaoh. In Genesis Apocryphon Sarah says that Abraham is her brother in a danger of death, for Pharaoh wants to kill Abraham (XX.10);
and the danger is predestined, since Abraham had seen it in his dream (XIX.14-21). The question about Sarah's being taken is again impurity: Sarah, being taken by another man, becomes impure for Abraham (XX.15). The answer to this question is again defin
ite negation: Sarah could not have been defiled because of the pestilent spirit smiting the Pharao's court and causing general impotence and barrenness.
The two narratives of Genesis Apocryphon have parallel structures. The narratives revolve arond two central questions: one of them is the question of the impurity of the female character (and, through this, a question of impurity their offsprin
gs). The stories prove that no impurity happened - consequently, the hero and his offspring receive the land. The geographic descriptions inserted in the narratives are to demonstrate this fact.
COMMON FEATURES OF THE THREE WORKS:
The three texts has different structures. The survey in the Damascus Document gives a survey of alternately changing 'evil' and 'good' historical periods. The basis of evaluating the periods as good or sinful is the observance or non-observance
of the Law. Sins are: violation of prohibitions concerning sexual relations, and consuming blood, idolatry. The survey ends at the moment of the arrival of the people to the promised land.
4Q 252 contains examples of sin and reward. Sins are violations of prohibitions concerning sexual relations. Sins result in loss of the land. The time surveyed in the work ends in the future, in an eschatological era. Genesis Apocryphon tells r
eports verifying that the mothers of the patriarchs Noah and Isaac did not commit (or: were not subject of) adultery, and they had not become impure. In following parts of the same narratives the giving of land to Noah and Abraham are reported.
Behind the above particular characteristics, there seems to be some common basic doctrine. Sins, prohibitions of biblical laws are often mentioned in the texts - most frequently sins of twnz, either as viol
ation of prohibitions of sexual character, or as idolatry. These sins are mentioned among the special prescriptions of the Mosaic law, the 'laws of the land', i.e. prohibitions against sins resulting in defiling the land.
The 'Laws of the land' in the Biblical literature
Lev. 18:1-30 in the Code of the Law of holiness contains a longer enumeration of prohibitions of that character. The list is set in a frame of admonitions, and is introduced as follows: "You must not do as they do in Egypt ... nor .. as t
hey do in Canaan to which I am bringing you.." (Lev. 18:3). The list of sins is followed by the statment: "You must not make yourselves unclean in any of those ways; for in such ways the nations, whom I am driving out before you, made themselves
unclean. That is how the land became unclean, and I punished it for its iniquity so that I spewed out its inhabitants" (Lev. 18:24-25). This means, that the Canaanites who had been living in the 'land' before the arrival of the Israelite tribes, wer
e expelled from there because of their sins which had defiled the 'land', and their sins were violation of prohibitions of sexual character.
Lev. 19:26-29 considers again 'harlotry' (root twnz, which means not only promiscuity, but all kinds of transgression of sexual taboos) - as one of the sins which defile the land. These are, in the list pre
ceding this statment: consumption of blood, sorcery, and certain marks of the mourning (see Lev. 19:26-29). Other 'laws of the Land' - i.e. prohibitions concerning practices which result in defiling the land - are: shedding blood (Num. 35:31-34, Dtn. 21:6
-9); allowing a corpse to remain hanging on a tree (Deut. 21:22-23); remarriage with a former divorced and remarried wife (Deut. 24:1-4; compare Jer. 3:1). The same idea appears in Deuteronomy, related to the ideas of 'land' and 'obtaining the land': the
Israelites who will enter to the promised land "and the land which the Lord your God is giving you as your holding must not be polluted" (Dtn. 21:23). Thus, according to Deuteronomic view, the condition of obtaining the land is keeping the puri
ty of the land which can be guaranted with observing some special commandments, the 'laws of the land'. Breaking the 'laws of the land' results in expelling the sinners from the land. This idea is to be found in certain prophetic and historical texts.
Postexilic sources focuse again on the questions of purity and land. In Ezra we read: "The land which you are going to occupy is a land defiled with the pollution of its heathen population and their abominable practices; they have filled i
t with their impure ways from end to end" (Ezra 9:12). This is the reason of the prohibition of the marriage of the descendants of the returnees with the children of these peoples (9:12ff).
The 'laws of the Land' in Qumran legislation: the Temple Scroll
In the Temple Scroll the idea of 'land' is strictly connected with that of the 'people'. 'People' means here the 'people of Yahweh', a holy people. In order to obtain the land, the holy people must act according to the prescriptions of a 'holin
ess code': "Justice (qdc), and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and come and inherit the land (Cr)) which I give you to inherit (ht#rl) for all times" (LI.15-16). The idea is expressed several times (XLVIII.6-11; LI.8-10).
Holiness, i.e. observance the commandments is evidently the condition to take into possession the land and to keep it. Temple Scroll gives also special prescriptions, by means of them the holy people can keep the land - and whose non-observance
results in defiling the land. At first place the dietary laws are mentioned. ("And any abominable thing [hb(wt] you shall not eat, for you are a people holy to the Lord your God" (XLVIII.6-7 Y). The
list continues with prohibition of certain bodily marks of the mourning and other marks (tattoo) (XLVIII.10). The Temple Scroll repeats the Deuteronomic prohibition of leaving the corpse for the night those hanged on tree "You shall not defile the la
nd which I give you to inherit" (LXIV.11-12).
Further prohibitions are: making a covenant with the inhabitants of the country, intermarriage with them (resulting in converting to idolatry); following the burial practice of the Canaanites (XLVIII.11-17); idolatry (considered as twnz) (LI.19-LII.3).
As it is well known, the Temple Scroll is not the description of a real situation, a real temple, and the cultic practices there. The text concerns the introduction of ideal institutions, as they would (should) be established after returning fr
om the Babylonian exile. In the Temple Scroll the 'laws of the Land' is in some places more detailed than in the biblical texts, it distends and systematizes. The inclusion of the prohibitions on eating into the 'laws of the Land' is novelty; in the bibli
cal 'laws of the Land' only the prohibition on the consummation of blood belongs to here.
It is a novelty as well that idolatry is categorically included here; in the Old Testament it did not categorically belong here, though in practice, as it is obvious from the not legal passages, it was included here, as the result of the not li
teral interpretation of the twnz, as infidelity to Yahweh.
The above analyses of Qumran narratives show that even literary tradition might have been revised and re-interpreted according to special points of the legal tradition. Such interpretation may seem arbitrary, but taking into consideration the s
tories of Genesis one can find several ones connected with disobedience resulting in expulsion from or loss of a land (the story of Eden; the story of Babel). Breaking the 'laws of the land' resulting in loss of the land (or inheritence) is present, besid
es the examples mentioned in the above 'narrative exegetical texts' in the story of Cain (bloodshed). The story of the 'Gefährdung der Ahnfrau' - a story accounting that the patriarchs are innocent of sins resulting ethical impurity - is told in Gene
sis three times, connected with different characters and places.
The phenomenon of the interpretation of biblical stories according to special laws in various postbiblical texts raises a series of questions. The survey of the Damascus Document and the text of 4Q 252 show certain similarities with the form pe
sher. On the other side, Genesis Apocryphon is a narrative of popular style, written in Aramaic - but obviously composed according to the same principles as the two other texts.
Nothwithstanding the presence of pesher-like elements in the works mentioned above, they must have originated from a different circle than the prophetic pesharim. The Qumran pesharim show traces of a previous interpretative process of certain p
rophetic texts. It seems that special texts were chosen, re-read and interpreted as referring to members of a later community - the community of their interpreters. 'Narrative exegetical texts' seem to show the beginning of a similar process in a differen
t material, the re-reading and interpretation of certain narrative texts according to special standpoints of the legal tradition - according to the laws concerning a holy community.
Please send comments or inquiries to the Orion Center at