The Kittim in the War Scroll and in the Pesharim

Hanan Eshel

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At the last verse of Balaam prophecies, in Numbers 24:24 it says: 𬎻𬎻 'Ships come from the quarter of Kittim, they subject Ashur, subject Eber. They too shall perish forever' (no. 1 in your handout). In the table of the Nations the Kittin were mentioned as the descendants of Japheth, together with Javan (Gen. 10:4), while in the book of Jeremaih they are mentioned as followed: ج𛻻؛򦡬𐐐 ''Just cross over to the islands of Kittim and look; Send to Kedar and observe carefully' (2:10). Thus it seems that the name Kittim was used as a general epithet for western nations.

Concerning the Kittim, Josephus said: 'The name Kittim (Ceqi;m) given by the Hebrews to all the islands and to most of the countries near the sea' (Ant I:128). Based on the reference from Number, Jews of the Second temple period seems to refer by the name Kittim to every nation who came to Israel by boats. Ballam prophecy was understood as an eschatological prophecy, according to which the Kittim shall subject Ashur and Israel as well, but finally will parish forever. Being understood as a description of the End of Days, the identification of the Kittim as the nation coming from west, was of great significant in the eyes of people waiting to the end at days in the Second Temple period.

By the end of the second century BCE there was a dispute around the identification of the Kittim in Judea. The author of the First book of Maccabees, who wrote his book at the beginning of the reign of John Hyrcanus the first, around the year 135, identif ied the Kittim with the Mocedonians (no. 2 in the handout): "This is the history of events which began in the era of Hellenistic dynasty. The dynasty has its origins in the time of Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian. This Alexander marched out from the land of Kittim...and smote Darius, king of the Persians and the Medes, and became king in his place and thus the first to rule over the Hellenistic empire" (1Maccabees 1:1); "They have defeated in battle and conquered King Philip and King Perseus of the Kittim (Macedonians), who had attacked them" (1 Maccabees 8:5). His identification was based on the assumption, that Persia is to be identified with the Asyrian kingdom, based on Ezrah 6;22:𬻎𻲻 𦡠𛦬؛ 'And they joyfully celebrated the Feast of the Mazot for seven days, for the Lord had given them cause for joy by inclining the heart of the Asyrian king toward them so to give them support in the w ork of the House of God, the God of Israel'. Having conquered the kingdom of Persia, i.e. Assyria, by Alexander the Great, one may deduce that the Kittim should be identified as the Macedonian.

Yet a different identification of the Kittim can be found in the end of the book of Daniel, edited about 165 BCE, according to which the Kittim should be identified with the Romans. 𬅛𬦛؛𬑛ج𬅛 𬠎ػ'At the appointed time, he will again invade the south, but the second time will not be like the first. Ships from Kittim will come against him. He will be checked, and will turn back, raging against the holy covenant' (Dan 11:29-30; n o. 3 in the handout).

These verses described the two invasions of Antiochus IV to Egypt: the first in the year 169 BCE, and the second in 168 BCE. During his second invasion a delegation of the Roman Senate head by Popilius Laenas was sent to Egypt to force Antiochus to retrea t from Egypt.

There is no doubts that the author of Daniel 11, identified the Kittim as the Romans, who force Antiochus to retreat from Egypt. The Old Greek translation of the book of Daniel, as well as the Volgate, translated the name Kittim as the Romans.

Some scholar suggested an emendation to verse 30, by which one should read ػ instead of . Nevertheless, the resemblance between the verse in Daniel 11 and Numbers 24, make this emendation unnecessary, we may assume that this was the wa y the author of Daniel understood Numbers 24:24.

The author of the book of Jubilees, seems to identify the Kittim not as the Romans, but as the people who lived in the Greece area. The Kittim were mentioned after the story of Abimelek, when Isaac cursed the Phelisteans to be handed to the Kittim, who wi ll kill them by sward (Jubilees 24:28-29). These reference can not help us identify the Kittim, but in Jubilees 37:10, in the description of the army enlisted by Esau to fight Jacob, the Kittim are included among his troops. Therefor its seems that the Ki ttim were identified by the author of the book of Jubilees as living in the Mediteranean islands, an area from which hired soldiers placed in Israel are known since the end of the First Temple period. It should be noted, that from the land of Israel there are no evidence of Italian hired soldiers in the First or Second Temple periods.

Another reference to Balaam prophecy can be found in the Testament of Simon, where in a description of the End of Days we read: "And all the Cappadocians shall perish, And all the Kittim shall be utterly destroyed" (6:3). From this description it is diffi cult to know who were the Kittim, according to the author of the Testament of Simon.

The Kittim are mentioned in seven different Qumran scrolls, six of which are sectarian compositions expressing the world view of scribes who lived in Qumran. The seventh mention of the Kittim is found in 4Q247, which does not seems to be of a sectarian or igin. This text was based on the 'Weeks Apocalypse' of Enoch 93 and 91, published by Milik in his 'Books of Enoch' (p. 256). The discussed fragment read as follows (no. 4 in the handout)



1. []trmined [end]
2. [...And afterwards will co]me the fif[th week
3. ]four-hundred [and thirty years Solo[mon]
4. ...of Zede]kiah king of Judah [
5. ...]the sons of Levi and the people of the Lan[d]
6. ...]kin[g] of the Kittim [

According to the Apocalypse of the Weeks, Enoch 93:7, the First temple was built during the fifth week, while the sixth week is characterized by blindness and lack of the fear of God. Milik noted, that line 3 of 4Q247 describes the temple being built by K ing Solomon, four hundred and eighty years after the Exodus, while line 4 refers to the destruction of the temple in the days of King Zedekiah. 'The people of the Land' mentioned in line 5 seems to descride the Persian period, namely the People of the La nd mentioned in the books of Ezrah and Nehemia. According to Milik's understanding, the King of Kittim mentioned in line 6 is part of a description of the Hellenistic period, thus the King of the Kittim should be identified as one of the Hellenistic kings .

Out of the six sectarian compositions mentioning the Kittim, the War Scroll is the most significant, in this work the Kittim is described as the major enemy of the sect, being mention in 1QM eighteen times. According to the War scroll, the war will last f orty years, of which in the first six years the Sons of Light will fight the Kittim. In line 2 of the first column, the phrase 'The Kittim of Asshur' is found, while ػ 'the Kittim in Egypt' were mentioned in line 4 there. Based on th is phrases E.L. Sukenik remarked: 'In my mind, the terminus post quem of the War Scroll can be determine by the phrase 'The Kittim of Asshur' and 'the Kittim in Egypt' found in column 1". In his opinion, these phrases refer to the Seleucides and the Ptole meese. Nevertheless, Sukenik's son, Yigael Yadin used the very same phrases to argue, that like in Pesher Habbakkuk, the Kittim mentioned in the War Scroll should be identified as the Romans he wrote that in the scroll we find: "'Kittim in Egypt'. Not 'of Egypt', as 'Kittim of Asshur'. This shows that the Kittim had an army in Egypt, not that they dwelt there".

Both Sukenik and Yadin understood the beginning of 1QM in a similar way. Yadin's reconstruction of the first column of 1QM is found as no. 5 in the handout:

Yadin noticed, that the author of the War Scroll had borrowed various phrase in column 1 from Daniel chapter 11 verse 40 onward. Yadin argued, that this was only a linguistic dependence rather then contextual one. In no. 6 of the handout you can find the points of resemblance between the begging of the War Scroll and the end of the book of Daniel:

ﻛ 𬲬𩻛𬛦𻲦𬲬 𬡻؛ 𬎲ػ𩻛򻎻ػ



𬍦𦽑𩻛ػ 𦍦


In 1981 David Flusser published an important article, dealing with the Apocalyptic elements found in the War Scroll. In his article Flusser argued that the author of the War Scroll was aware to the fact that the last part of the vision found in chapters 1 1 and 12 of Daniel did not happened yet. In other words, the author of the War Scroll knew that Daniel 11:40-12:3 is an unfulfilled prophecy. Thus he believed, that its fulfillment will occur in the near future.

Comparing Daniel and the beginning of the War Scroll, Flusser suggested a different reconstruction of Col. 1 of 1QM. Based on his suggestions, the following reading of this column can be found in no. 7 of the handout:


1. For the Maskil, disposition of] the war. The first engagement of the Sons of Light shall be to attack the lot of the Sons of Darkness, the army of Belial, the troop of Edom and Moab, and the sons of Ammon
2. and the army [of the dwellers of] Phlistia and the troops of the Kittim of Asshur, and in league with them the offenders against the covenant. The sons of Levi, the sons of Judah, and the sons of Benjamin, the exiles
3. of the wilderness, they shall fight against them with [...], yea, against all their troops, when the exiles of the Sons of Light return from the Wilderness of the Nations to encamping the Wilderness of Jerusalem. After the battle they shall go up from there.
4. And the King] of the Kittim will [come] in Egypt. In His appointed time He shall go forth with great wrath to fight against the kings o the north, and His anger shall be such as
5. to destroy utterly and to cut off the horn of [Israel. That shall be] the time of deliverance for the People of God, an appointed time of dominion for all men of His lot, and eternal annihilation for all the lot of Belial.
6. There shall be [great] panic [amongst] the sons of Japeth, Asshur shall fall, and none shall help him, and the dominion of the Kittim shall depart, so that wickedness be subdued without a remnant,
7. and none shall escape of [all Sons of] Darkness.

The Important differences between the reconstructions suggested by Yadin and those of Flusser are that According to Flusser's understanding, line 4 says that the King of Kittim will come to Egypt. Thus, their are no evidence of the Kittim of Egypt in 1QM. In addition, it line 5 it says that the King of Kittim will 'cut off the horn of [Israel', and not 'the horn of Belial'.

In 1982, only a few month after Flusser article was published, the edition of some of the War Scrolls from Cave 4 were published, in DJD 7. Among them 4Q496 which includes part of the first column of the War Scroll. This fragment reads: (no. 8 in the hand out):


3. ...He shall go forth with] great wrath to f[ig]ht against [the kings o the north...
4. ...and to cut off the horn of Is]rael. That shall be the time of [deliverance ...
5. ...the lot of Belial. There shall be [great] pa[nic ...
6. ...]and the dominion of the [Kittim] shall [depart

Line 4 of this fragment proves that Flusser's reconstruction of the beginning of line 5 of 1QM is correct. It seems that his reconstruction of the beginning of line 4 is probably correct as well. Thus, the War Scroll seems to have no reference to existenc e of 'Kittim of Egypt'. Therefore, the Kittim in the War Scroll are only related to Asshur. This is being referred to, in two other occurrences in 1QM: the first in column 11 lines 11-12, where the author interpreted Isaiah 31:8 as a proof that God himsel f will fight the Kittim, as He did with Pharoh (no. 9. in the handout): 򲽎텬𦛲؅𦬛؅𦬛 "From the time you had announced to us the time appointed for the mighty deed of Your hand agai nst the Kittim, saying: 'then shall Asshur fall with the sword not of man, and the sword, not of man, shall devour him".

A second reference in 1QM to the connection between the Kittim and Asshur is made, in column 18 line 2 (no. 10 of the handout):

𦛻î𦛻𐐐 - "...In the pursuit of Asshur, then shall the sons of Japeth fall never to raise again, and the Kittim shall be smashed to noting...".

During the Second Temple period, naming Syria as Asshur is a well known fact, and therefore, the phrase , must refer to the Seleucides. It is important to note, that the King of Kittim is mentioned in 1QM Col. 15, line 2-3 ( no. 11 on the handout ):𬑬𻦑𑬦𡻦﬎ "And all those [prepared] for battle shall go and encamp over against the king of the Kittim and all the army of Belial that are gathered unto him..".

In light of the clear connection between the War Scroll and the end of the book of Daniel, we may assume that the War Scroll was composed in a time when the events which happened during the sixties of the second century BCE were still fresh in mind, and p eople were capable to distinguish between reference to events that already occurred and those which did not occur. Enough time had passed, in order to see the difference between Daniel 11, verses 1-39 and chapter 11 verse 40 to chapter 12 verse 3. Thus, t he updating of the last part of Daniel's prophecy was necessary, in order to persuade the audience that these verses are still relevant, and will occur in the near future.

We therefore may conclude, that the War Scroll was composed during the third quarter of the second century BCE, and the Kittim mentioned in this scroll should be identified with the Seleucides.

A related composition to the War Scroll, also mentioning the Kittim, is called ݳ, or 4Q285, in frg. 5 line 6 of this composition are mentioned. Most scholars who worked on this fragment suggested to reconstructed in line 4 'The King of the Kittim'. This passage is based on Isaiah 10:34 to 11:1 (no. 12 in the handout), and its reads as follows (no. 13 in the handout):


1. ...As it is written in the book of] Isaiah the Prophet,
2. ["The thickets of the forest] will be cut [down with an axe and Lebanon by a majestic one will f]all. And there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse
3. [ A twig shall sprout from his stock"...] the branch of David and they will enter into judgment with [all]
4. [the army of Belial. And the King of the Kittim will be judged] and the Prince of the Congregation, the Bra[nch of]
5. [David] will kill him [... and thy will go out with timbrel]s and dances. And [the Chief]
6. Priest shall command [to purify their flesh off the blood of the slain of the Kitians. [And al]l [the people...

Some of the fragments of 4Q285 are parallel to fragments of 11QBer or 11Q14. in this scroll some remains of the above fragment had survived. Although the two compositions, the War Scroll and resembles, there are some fundamental differences be tween them, the most important of which is that the Prince of the Congregation mentioned in the , while only the High Pries and the Chief Priest ؛ are mentioned in the War Scroll. The Kittim were mentioned in  only in an Escha tological contexts, thus it is impossible to know to whom did the author of this composition referred to. As note above, this fragment of is based on Isaiah 10:34. The same verse was interpreted in 4QpIsa4Q161, and the Kittim were mentioned in this Pesher only in the interpretation of Isaiah 10 verses 33-34. It therefore seems that the Pesher of Isaiah was using  as his source. In the second and third columns of Pesher Isaiah we reads (no. 14 in the handout):

14. 4QpIsaa(=4Q161) Column ii


Column iii


21. [...]"He has come to Aiath. He has passed [through Migron.] At Michma[sh]
22. [He stored his baggage. They have crossed] over the pass. Geba is a lodging place for them [Rammah becomes] ill. [Gibeah of]
23. [Saul has fled. Cry] aloud, O daughter of Gallim! Hearken [O Laisha! Answer her, O Anathoth!]
24. Madmenah [is in flight.] The [in]habitants of Gebim flee for refuge. This very [day he will halt at Nob.]
25. [He will shake] his fist at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem".[
26. [The interpretation of the] matter with regard to the end of days concerns the coming
27. of [...]rh when he goes up from the Valley of Acco to fight in Phil[istia..
28. [...]dh, and there is none like it, and among all the cities of h[.
29. even up to the boundary of Jerusalem [.

Column iii

6. ..."and the th]ickets of [the forest will be cut down] with an axe, and Lebanon together with the might one
7. will fall"....The are the] Kittim, wh[o] will fa[ll] by the hand of Israel. And the poor ones of
8. [Judah will judge] all the nations, and the warriors will be filled with terror, and [their] cour[age] will dissolve
9. ..."and those who are lofty] in Stature will be cut off". They are the warriors of the Kitt[im]
10. [who...]d "And the thickets of [the] forest will be cut down with an axe". th[ey are]
11. [...]m for the battle of the Kittim. "And Lebanon together with the mi[ghty one]
12. [will fall". They are the] Kittim, who will be gi[ven] into the hand of his great ones. [...]
13. [...]ym when he flees befo[re Is]rael.[...]
14 [...] vacat

Isaiah 10 verses 28-34 (no. 12 in the handout) describes the way the enemy march from the north east to Jerusalem conquering various villages. When the enemy gets very close to the Jerusalem (able to shake his hand over Mt. Zion), God will smash him and J erusalem will be redeemed. In 1974 J. D. Amusin suggested identifying the events mentioned in this Pesher to Isaiah 10 as relating to Ptolemy Lathyrus campaign against Alexander Jannaeus. According to Josephus (Jewish War I 86 = Antiquities 13: 324-356, no. 15 in the handout), when Alexander Jannaeus established himself in power, he tried to conquer Acco - Ptolemais. After he succeed to overcome the army of Ptolemais in the battle field, he put a siege around the city. At that point, the people of Ptolem ais invited Ptolemy Lathyrus (the ninth), who was ruling at that time at Cyprus, to come to their help. At that time, Ptolemy was not in good terms with his mother, Cleopatra the third, the queen of Egypt, who in turn supported his brother, Ptolemy Alexan der the First. Before Lathyrus sailed from Cyprus to Palestine, the people of Acco withdrawn their invitation to him. Nevertheless, Ptolemy Lathyrus went on his way, landed in Shiqmonah south of Acco and started his journey toward the city of Akko.

Alexaner Jannaus, from his side, started to negotiate with Ptolemy Lathyrus; and at the same time, Jannaeus asked Lathyrus mother Cleopatra to come to his aid. After Ptolemy Lathyrus found out that Jannaeus had sent messengers to Cleopatra, he started to attack Jannaeus. After the army of Ptolemy Lathyrus defeated Jannaeus army, and the way to Jerusalem was open before him, Ptolemy heard that the army of his mother had reached Palestine, and he decided to leave Judea and made his way to Philistia.

Amusin's suggestion to connect the events of 103-102 BCE, as recorded by Josephus, and the Pesher to Isaiah 10 is based mainly on line 27 of Col. 2 of the Pesher, reading: 𦦡 'when he goes up from the Valley of Acco to fight in Phil[istia'. It should be bared in mind, that the two events are basically similar, according to Isaiah's description the enemy will advance on Jerusalem coming from the north-east, while Ptolemy Lathyrus approached Jerusalem from the city Zafon, which i s located near the Jordan north east of Jerusalem. In both occasions the redemption of Jerusalem could have been explained as a divine act.

Although the Pesher to Isaiah is fragmentary, we may connect between the events of he year 103 BCE and the historical clues found in Pesher to Isaiah 10:28-34. Therefore, we can identify the Kittim mentioned in Pesher Isaiah as one of the Hellenistic king doms. When the Pesher was composed at the first quarter of the first century BCE (between the years 100 and 75 BCE), people still identified the Kittim as the Hellenistic kingdoms, which will be destroyed by Israel (Col. 3 line 7).

We may conclude that we have seen that the Kittim were identified as the Hellenistic kingdoms in: First Maccabees, 4Q247, the War Scroll and Pesher Isaiah A. On the other hand in two other Pesharim found in Qumran they were identified as the Romans: In Pe sher Habbakkuk found in Cave 1, the Kittim were mentioned nine times, two additional times this name is reconstruct. In this Pesher the title ''the rulers of the Kittim" is found (Col.. 4, lines 4 and 10), rather then the King of the Kittim, mentioned in 4Q247 and in the War Scroll. The Kittim are clearly related to the imperialism of the Roman. In 1QpHab their worship to standards is mention (Col.. 6:1-4), a fact resembling the standard worshiping which was a common practice in the Roman ar my (no. 16 in the handout):


1. the Kittim, and they shall increase their wealth with all their booty
2. like the fish of the sea. And when it says, "Therefore he sacrifices to his net
3. and burns incense to his seine", the interpretation of it is that they
4. sacrifice to their standards, and their military arms are

Pesher Habbakkuk clearly refers to the conquer of the land of Israel by Pompy, in col. 9 lines 4-7 (no. 17 in the handout):


4. vacat the interpretation of it concerns the last priests of Jerusalem,
5. who amass wealth and profit from the plunder of the peoples;
6. but at the End of Days their wealth together with their booty will be given into the hand of
7. the army of the Kittim...

The Kittim mentioned in Pesher Nahum should also be identified with the Romans. The beginning of Col. 1 of the main surviving fragment (frgs. 3-4) contradicts between the "kings of Greece" and "the rulers of the Kittim" (no. 18 in the handout):


1. [The interpretation of it concerns Jerusalem, which has become] a dwelling for the wicked ones of the nations. "Where the lion went to enter, the lion's cub
2. [and no one to disturb". The interpretation of it concern Deme]trius, King of Greece, who sought to enter Jerusalem on the advice of the Seeker-After-Smooth-Things,
3. [but God did not give Jerusalem] into the power of the kings of Greece from Antiochus until the rise of the rulers of the Kittim; but afterwards [the city] will be trampled
4. [and will be given into the hands of ...

The author of Pesher Nahum emphasized, that although various invasions of Ptolmean and Seleucid kings were intended to conquer Jerusalem, Jerusalem was not conquered by the kings of Greece, from Antiochus probably the IV (died in 163 BCE), until the Pompe ius' conquer.

As opposed to other compositions that we have dealt with above, in both Pesher Habbakkuk and Pesher Nahum, no reference to the fall of the Kittim is mentioned. We therefore may assume, that a change in the historical concept of the Qumranites had happene d. While in the early compositions they identify the Kittim as the Hellenistic kingdoms in general, and with the seleucids in particular, at the beginning of the second third of the first century BCE, perhaps a little before the conquer of Palestine by Po meius, and definitely after this event, they have understood that the Kittim should be identified as the Romans. This identification was not an new invasion of the first century BCE, since it is already attested in the book of Daniel, chapter 11, a fact t hat might helped its adoption.

I would like to suggest that the switch in the identification of the Kittim was not a simple change, because the Qumranites believed that they learned the true way to interpret the words of the prophets from the Teacher of righteousness, who learn it from God himself. In 1QpHab Col. 2: we read (no. 19 in the handout):


5. the interpretation of the passage [concerns the tria]tors at the End of
6. Days. They are the ruthless [ones of the coven]ant who will not believe
7. when they hear all that is going to co[me up]on the last generation from the mouth of
8. the priest into [whose heart] God put [understandi]ng to interpret all
9. the words of his servants the prophets...

And in 1QpHab Col. 7 we read (no. 20 in the handout):


3. And when it says, "so that he can run who reads it",
4. the interpretation of it concerns the teacher of Righteousness, to whom God made known
5. all the mysteries of the words of his servants the prophets...

We may assume, that one of the reasons, if not the major one, for stopping copping the Pesharim (between 63 and 31 BCE) was that the authors of this particular genre realized that they have mistakenly identify the Kittim. It is always easier to correct an d update oral traditions than written compositions, and therefor they stopped putting the pesharim in writing.