Ordained by God
according to the Literature of Second Temple Period
My purpose in this article is to demonstrate the profound importance of the notion, known from various Jewish circles towards the end of the Second Temple period, of physical and metaphysical entities established according to divine measurements. The most impressive evidence for this notion is the Qumran scrolls (especially certain strata of them), but the employment of theological measure vocabulary at Qumran should be considered in a wider context, namely the literature of the Second Temple period, early Christianity and rabbinic literature. We shall begin by observing the affinity of the Qumran terminology with post biblical works in which this notion occurs, continue by noting the inner relationship of several passages, and then turn to a careful scrutiny of passages from Qumran, especially from 4QInstructions and other “sapiential” works, and establish their relationship to other works and to biblical passages.
The noun ???? (“measurement”) and the verb tikken (“to measure”) are theological terms current in works from Qumran, especially in the Serekh, 4QInstructions and some other “sapiential” texts. As we shall see below (p. ***), the word is used in the context of the divine order of periods, and probably also in the context of creation in general. It is also used in the sense of different spiritual proportions, and in this sense has evident ethical overtones. It refers also to the precepts of the sect, and to the “way” of the maskil. This notion is a part of a wider one, namely that God meted out to every human being a measured predestined portion, sometimes called also “lot” (????), “inheritance” (????), “place of standing” (??? ?????). “Measurement”, then, should be seen as describing the mode of God’s dispensation, and therefore is central for human activity as well. The “divine measure” applies to God’s action in nature, in history, to His laws, and to His relation to humanity and to His elects.
The conception that the wisdom of God manifests itself in measurements ordained by Him is widespread (although briefly expressed) in different contexts in works that were composed in various circles in the Second Temple period. The word surgery of Qumranic terminology and a survey of cognate literature illuminate each other. By and large, the variety of contexts in which the “divine measurement” is mentioned in non-sectarian and non-Qumranic literature of the Second Temple period fit the variety of meanings of the words tikkun in Qumran, as will be demonstrated below. The following passages share basically one idea, which is also reflected in the Qumranic usage of the word tikkun.
(a) In the Wisdom of Solomon it is stated that God’s punishment is never
disproportionate, because He “ordered all things by measure and number
and weight” (11:20). This verse continues a preceding verse “by
those things that a man sins, through them he is punished” (11:16). As
has been noted, this concept is formulated in rabbinic Judaism by the saying “with
the measure that one measures out, it is measured out to him”, known
also from the Gospels.
In the texts cited above, the measurements ordained by God are applied to His creation, to His actions in history, and to the portions of righteousness of human beings. These texts not only share a common measure metaphor, but also the basic idea that God’s dispensation is executed by fixed “measurements”. These “measurements” are, to some extent, equivalent to the notion of divine law consisting of the laws of nature, the laws of history and the laws of the Torah, all ordained by God; but the quantitative aspect of God’s activity is more emphasized in the term “measurement” and its synonyms. God’s measurements are basically known only to Him, but He can reveal them, as a part of His wisdom, to His elects; hence the frequent mention of “measurements” in apocalyptic literature.
Two passages, in the Testament of Naphtali and in 2Enoch, deserve special attention. Before trying to elucidate the significance of "measurement theology" in these two passages, let us investigate a passage in the Book of Ben Sira, which does not contain this terminology, but nevertheless has striking affinities with these passages. The Ben Sira passage reads:
(7) As one day is distinguished over the other, when all daylight in the year
is from the sun,
In verses 7-12, Ben Sira compares holy and ordinary days with the difference with elected and non-elected human beings. Both the days and the human beings are basically created by God in the same fashion; but although seemingly equal, some of them are distinguished from the others by God’s wisdom. It should be noted that verse 12c-d describes the non-sanctified human beings in more pejorative terms than the analogous “ordinary days”: the human beings that were not chosen are “disgraced” (if not “cursed”) and “rejected from their positions”. The reason for the sanctification of certain people is only God’s will (verse 13), to which no reasons are given. . The duality is even more explicit in the closing verses of this unit, where pairs of opposites are mentioned, and it is stated that this duality is the main principle of God’s Creation.
Israel’s sanctification is related to that of the Sabbath in a similar manner in the Book of Jubilees. God says, according to this book:
I will now separate a people for myself from among the nations … I will sanctify the people for myself and will bless them as I sanctified the Sabbath day … It was granted to these that for all times they will be the blessed and the holy ones of the testimony and of the first law, as it was sanctified and blessed on the seventh day (Jub. 2:19-24).
A similar formula underlies the havdala blessing:
Blessed are You … who separates the sacred and the profane, the light and the darkness, Israel and the nations, the seventh day and the six days of working
All the elements of this text of blessing, documented no later than the Amora Rava (b.Pesahim 103b) occur in the passage of Ben Sira. It is the passage in Ben Sira that enables us to understand the full sense of the “separations” mentioned in the havdala list. The similarity between Ben Sira’s theology of duality and the dualism of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been noticed. However, in this case as in other cases, the theology of duality, current in wider circles, was easily adopted by circles of more rigid dualistic worldview.
As has been observed, the ideas found in the passage of Ben Sira were elaborated, gaining a new twist, in 2Enoch. Here we read:
(b) And in all these things I discovered differences. For, just as one year is more honorable than another year
<so one person is more honorable than another person>
(e) Happy is the person who does not direct his heart with malice ... because on the day of the great judgment, every weight and every measure and every set of scales will be just as they are in the market
(e) Happy is the one who directs <his heart towards every person... because on <the day of> the great judgment every deed of mankind will be restored by means of written records. Happy is he whose measure will prove to be just and whose weight just and scales just! Because on the day of the great judgment every measure and every weight and every scale will be exposed as in the market;
Section (b) is similar to the passage of Ben Sira, but it is taken to mean that as there are differences among the days, so there are also differences among human beings. That is to say, the plurality and the differences are emphasized as governing principles rather than the duality according to the passage of Ben Sira. Differences between human beings are listed at length in section (c) and mentioned in section (d), where it is mentioned that God created in His image all the different human beings (cf. Sir. v. 10). In section (a) according to version A and in the inclusio in section (e), two images of Enoch are combined. Enoch is described in the Enochic literature as having complete knowledge of astronomy and as recording human deeds. According to sections (a) (in Version A) and (e), these two aspects of Enoch’s knowledge are in fact one: the knowledge of the divine measurements, applicable for cosmic order and for human affairs. In section (e) we come across the ethical “measure for measure” concept, known to us also from other passages of 2Enoch (52:15; 49:2). “Measurements” apply also to the cosmic order (section a). Apparently, it also applies to the difference among human beings, which is taken as a part of the cosmic order (sections b, c).
Many of the elements of this passage are found also in the Testament of Naphtali:
(2) For as the potter knows the vessel, how much it is to contain and applies
clay to that purpose, so also does the Lord make the body after the likeness
of the spirit, and after the capacity of the body does He implant the spirit.
(3) And the one does not fall short of the other by a third part of a hair;
for by weight and measure and rule every creation of the Most High is made.
(4) And as the potter knows the use of each (vessel), what it is suitable for,
so also does the Lord know the body, how far it will persist in goodness and
when it begins in evil. (5) For there is nothing that is molded and no thought
which the Lord does not know; for He created every man after His own image.
(6) As his [i.e., man’s] strength, so also is his work … as his
soul, so also his word, either in the law of the Lord or in the law of Beliar.
(7) And as there is a division between light and darkness, seeing and hearing,
so there is a division between man and man, and between woman and woman; and
it is not to be said that the one is like the other in appearance or in mind.
(8) For God made all things good, in order … the hair for glory, the
heart for understanding, the belly for the secretion of the stomach [etc.] … (9)
So then, my children, be in order unto good, in the fear of God and do nothing
disorderly in scorn or out of its season. (10) For if you tell the eye to hear,
it cannot; so neither will you be able to do works of light while in darkness.
We have here a cluster of ideas very similar to those of the two passages already surveyed. Let us outline the main ideas and mark the similarities to Ben Sira and 2Enoch. (i) God created everything “by weight, measure and rule” (v. 3; cf. 2Enoch). (ii) Although man was created in God’s image (v. 5; cf. 2Enoch), there are substantial differences between individuals (v. 8; cf. 2Enoch). God knows all human beings as a potter knows the vessels he moulds (vv. 2, 4; cf. Ben Sira). (iii) The differences between human beings are compared to light and darkness (cf. Ben Sira) and to the various senses of the human body (vv. 7, 10). The tension between the plurality of the human experience and "dualistic" theology has parallels in the Qumran scrolls; Thus according to 4Q186, the exact spiritual position of every individual between light and darkness (i.e., the proportion of light and darkness in one's soul) can be determined with the help of astronomy and physiognomy. (iv) The different functions of the members of the human body are given as an illustration (vv. 7-8; cf. 2Enoch, sections b-c). (v) Another inference drawn from God’s order in Creation, a harmony of differences, is that one should not do anything out of its due season (v. 9). The author did not draw a line between God’s physical and metaphysical rules; he did not distinguish between the order of nature and of the human body and the metaphysical “order” of the observance of God’s commandments (vv. 8-9). The request not to do anything out of its due time is clearly related in this passage to the conception of divine order (v.9). This may be taken as implying that the divine order (referred to in v. 8) applies also to periods of time, and that time is based on differences (probably measurable differences) exactly as does the order of nature. Although measure terminology is used only once (v. 3), it fits very nicely into the general tenor of this passage as a whole.
The different functions assigned by God to the members of the human body exemplify in this passage the different kinds of competence bestowed by God upon individual human beings. The divine order is based on differences. The analogy between the harmony of the human members of the body and the harmony of different individuals is a well-known topos in the ancient world; it is particularly interesting, however, to compare the theology of the passage in the Testament of Naphtali with some passages in the Pauline epistles that are reminiscent of it. Paul writes:
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body
were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged
the organs in the body, each of them, as He chose ... The eye cannot say to
the hand “I have no need of you” ... Now you are the body of Christ
and individually members of it (1Cor 12:12-30)
The similarity to the Testament of Naphtali is clear. The Pauline idea that all the members are part of Christ's body adds, of course, a new dimension to the differentiation between the members. According to Paul's epistle to the Romans, the differentiation between the members is ordained by God “according to the grace”. One’s position in the community is “according to the measure of faith”, but this measure is allotted by God. We are reminded of passages in the scrolls:
Every Israelite may know his standing place in the Community of God for an
eternal council. And no one shall either fall from his standing place, or rise
from the place of his lot ... For they shall all be in the Community ... of
righteous intention towards one another (1QS 2:22-25)
One’s “measure” (tikkun; i.e., standing in hierarchy) in Qumran is determined according to the measure of one’s understanding and deeds of the Torah, to which the Pauline “measure of faith” is an equivalent. Qumran and Paul share the belief that the theological truth concerning “one’s portion” as given to him by God can be attained by examining criteria of psychology and religious behavior. In this sense, the theological structure in the Pauline passages cited above is not too remote from that of the Qumran sect.
We return to a more thorough examination of the usage of the word tikkun, whose outlines have been noted above, at the beginning of section I. At first glance, the word tikkun seems to be used in the texts from Qumran in a variety of theological meanings. In the Serekh, Hodayot and some sectarian poetical works the word is employed in the following senses:
(1) The word ???? means measurement of both astronomical and historical periods,
and probably applies to God’s creation of the cosmos in general. (a)
astronomical periods: ??????? ??? ?????? ... ?????? ?????? ?????? (1QH 12:5);
????? ... ??? ???? ?????? ... ????? ???? ??????? ??????? ????? ??? ????? ???
????? ?? ??? (1QS 10:7; cf. also 10:9). (b) historical periods: ?????? ???
????? ??? ?????? (1QS 8:4) ?? ??? ?? ????? ?????? (1QpHab 7:13); ????? ?? ???
?????? ??? ???? (1QS 9:12). (c) The phrase ???? ????? occurs in the Pesher
of the Ages, in a very fragmentary context (4Q181 frg. 2:8), presumably referring
Conceptions of measurement, including the root ???, are most significant in Qumranic sapiential literature. Several tiny fragments of 4QMysteries use the words ????, ???, ???? and ???. Although the fragments are virtually unintelligible, all of them seem to reflect a theological notion of divine measurement. A fragment of 4QMysteries (4Q299 frg. 6 i, 5), probably describing God’s wonders in creation, mentions “rains” and, in the next line, ??????? ???? “and in measurement they water the earth”, referring probably to the clouds. In another fragment assigned to the same work, the words ???? ??? have survived, probably an allusion to Ez. 45:10-11: ????? ??? ????? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???. ????? ???? ??? (????) ??? ???? ("You shall have just balances, a just epha and a just bath, and the epha and the bath shall be of the same measure")
Of special importance are some passages of 4QInstruction. God measured out and weighed in a just balance all Creation (?? ?? ??? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ???? ,,, / [?]? ?????? ??? ??? ??? ????? ?????[?, 4Q418 frg. 127, 5-6; ???[?]? ??? ????? ??? ??? ?? ??? ?[ 4Q418 frg. 126 ii, 3) //trans.// To these passages we may perhaps add the expression "the measure of His truth", ???? ????, in Serekh Shirat ‘Olat ha-Sabbat (4Q405 frg. 23 i, 13). The wording echoes Ez. 45:10-11. The idea that Creation is measured by God is expressed in 4QInstruction by the words ????? ??????, “to measure” (4Q418 frg. 1, 1 + 4Q416 frg. 1, 4). The passage reads:
Although the text is very fragmentary, it seems fairly clear that God’s
measurements are related to His providence, concerning every kingdom, province
and human being.
Another passage in 4QInstructions ((4Q418 frg. 77 + 4Q416 frg. 7) is revealing:
2 [ ??? ?]?? ???? ??? ?????? [?]?? ???? ???? [
The passage is translated by the editors: “mystery that is to come, and grasp the nature of [M]an, and gaze on the prosper[ty / (3) and the punishment of his activity; and then thou shalt discern the judgement of mankind, and the weighing [ / (4) to the outpouring of his lips and according to his spirit, and grasp the mystery that is to come, According to the [w]eight of the times and the proportion of”. I believe that this translation is wrong, and a better translation would be:
(3) [consider] the mystery to come and grasp the (spiritual) filiation of
a [pe]rson, and consider all [
It seems that this passage refers to the doctrine of the two spirits and to the possibility to “examine” human beings, and to "weigh" times. The examination of human beings, ????? ?????, a term known from passages in the Serekh and in the Damascus Covenant, is essentially related to “measuring the spirits” (???? and also ????). This passage, then, is a parallel to passages in the Serekh, especially to the passage in which it is stated that the role of the maskil is “to measure every time and to weigh every man according to their spirits” (1QS 9:12-14). We may note in passing that such impressive parallels to the Serekh indicate that 4QInstruction is a sectarian work.
A fragmentary passage seems to refer to the “weighing of spirits” of a couple to be married. The passage (4Q415 frg. 11 + 4Q418 frg. 167) reads:
(1) [ ]??????? ????[ ]? ?? ?? ?????? ??? ]
(1) ] her measuring in all [ ] in them, for like just balance [
As has been noted by Qimron, the whole fragment should be interpreted in the light of a passage of the Damascus Document:
??? ?? ??? ??? ??? ???? ?? ??? ????? ???? ?? ??? ???? ???? ?? ???? ????? ??? ??? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?? ????? ???? ??? ???? ?? ?? ??? ????? ...
And if a man gives his daughter to a man, let him disclose all her blemishes to him, lest he bring upon himself the judgment of the curse, as it is said "(cursed is he who) makes the blind wander out of the way". Moreover, he should not give her to one who is not prepared to her, for that is (a violation of the prohibition of) kil’ayim (4Q271 frg. 3:7-10)
Line 6 of the passage of 4QInstructions cited above is almost literally identical
to the halakhic instruction in the Damascus Document. Whereas the instruction
in the latter is based on Deut. 27:18, the former (lines 7-10) is based on
a similar verse, namely on the verse ???? ??? ?? ??? ????? (Lev. 19:14). The
halakhic instruction in the latter, “he [=her father] should not give
her to one not destined (literally: prepared) for her” (4Q271 frg. 3,
9) has its counterpart in the “weighing of spirits” in the former.
Joseph Baumgarten, the editor of the passage in the Damascus Covenant, has
noted: “It is possible that this expression reflects the belief that
one’s spouse is prepared by destiny; cf. Tobit 6:18 … Here, however,
??? ???? more likely refers to overt incompatibility, such as a great disparity
in age”. Ostensibly, this interpretation seems unavoidable: how can a
human being know who one’s destined spouse is? From 4QInstructions it
can be inferred that, according to Qumranic material, this knowledge could
be acquired by "measuring out" the spirits of the couple. Indeed,
it is said in the Bible that only God measures out spirits (???? ????? ?',
Prov. 16:2), but we have already seen that the knowledge of the divine measurement
was conceived as granted to the sage. The “weighing of spirits” was
most plausibly an accurate process, as the “weighing of spirits” according
to the Serekh resulted in a precise place in the hierarchy. It could be achieved
perhaps (inter alia) by mantic techniques; Thus there is a reference to astrology
in the next line (4Q415 frg. 11, 11), and similarly elsewhere in this work,
referring to marrying a woman.
The knowledge of the portion allotted to every individual is most significant for the "wisdom" concepts of 4QInstructuion. One should not trespass the portion, “inheritance”, granted by God to another: ????? ??? ?? ???? ???? ?????? ??? ????? ?? ?? ???? ?????? “(If) you are poor, do not yearn something beyond your portion, and do not be afflicted by it, lest you withdraw your own boundary” (4Q416 frg. 2 iii, 8-9). One of the means to discern one’s “portion” is astrology: ???? ???? ???? ?????? ??? ??? ????? “and by the mystery of what is to come study his horoscope, and then you will know his portion” (4Q416 frg. 2 iii, 9-10). One is not allowed to increase the portion allotted to him, and if he does so, he is shortening his life (4Q417 frg. 2 i, 17-20), perhaps because the total sum of one’s portion is measured out by God.
The idea of divine spiritual portions granted to human beings is well known from many sectarian works from Qumran. One of them at least (4Q184) tries to quantify the portion using the accurate sciences of astronomy and physiognomy. It is easy to see that the notion of portions ordained by God admirably fits the idea that God’s doing in the cosmos takes place according to divine measurements, and functions in the sectarian writings as an aspect of the theory of predestination which is at the core of the Dead Sea Sect theology.
We have discussed occurrences of the idea of the divine measurements in works of the Second Temple period, and especially in Qumran. We have seen that this theological conception applies to almost any aspect of God’s deeds. It is quite clear that the sources, all of them, do not distinguish among the different kinds of “measurements”. On the contrary, the fields are explicitly and implicitly conceived of as analogous in different works. The idea of God’s measurement relates to the physical and to the metaphysical, to space and to time, to history and to law, to order and to ordinances, to property and to wisdom, to God’s actions and to the proper behavior of the pious. It is thus the main principle of God’s activity in the world. These broad theological concepts illuminate the wide-ranging nuances of one Hebrew word, current in Qumranic literature, the word ????.
How are these conceptions related to biblical ones? Several passages of the Hebrew Bible refer to God’s measure. God is described as measuring out the water and the wind, and perhaps also His wisdom (Job 28:25-26). He is described as weighing the righteousness of human beings in His “just balance” (Job 31:6), and as measuring the spirits of human beings (Prov. 16:2; 21:2). From a prophetic passage (Ez. 18:25) it could be inferred that God’s way is “measurable”. Gen. 15:16 may be considered as a biblical precedent to the conceptions of measurement in history, such as those expressed in 4Ezra 4:36-37 (above, section I, [e]). Some of these passages are alluded to in some writings of the Second Temple period expressing views concerning the divinely ordained measurements (and, to some extent, in rabbinic literature). Job 28:25-26 serves also in rabbinic Judaism as a proof-text for other divine measurements. The clause ????? ???? ???? (Job 28:25) is taken in some rabbinic writings, inter alia, as referring to God’s measuring out the spirits of the prophets (rather than "wind" in the plain sense of the biblical verse). According to one interpretation, the verse refers to the prophets receiving the Holy Spirit in different weights; according to another, people have "great souls (or: minds)" or "petty souls (or: minds)" according to the spiritual measure ordained to them by God (Lev. Rab. 15:2; cf. 4Q434 frg. 1 i, 10: ???? ???? ????? ????? ???). The “measurement of water” mentioned in the same verse (Job 28:25) was interpreted as referring to the change in the proportion of water in the human body, of which leprosy is the result, a change caused by sin (Lev. Rab. 15:2); the direct correlation between the physical and the metaphysical is thus clearly indicated. In spite of these biblical precedents, the specific theological sense and the significance attached to the notion of divine measurement seem to be peculiar to the literature of the Second Temple period, and the human techniques to discover it, according to some texts are certainly so. In this case, as in others, biblical wording may paradoxically conceal the novelty of a concept. It can be doubted whether theological concepts concerning divine measurement in this literature emerged directly and solely from biblical passages; but even if they did, they acquired new significance in the literature of the Second Temple period.
The analysis of one word (tikkun) and a synthesis of passages in the literature of the Second Temple are complementary, and verify each other. We realize that the ocean is contained in each of its drops.