11Q5: Psalm 151 (A Poetic Midrash on 1 Sam 16:1-13)

The Mesoratic text does not include Psalm 151 into the Psalter. It was known in Greek, Latin, and Syriac translation before the discovery of the Dead Sea Psalm Scrolls. Psalm 151 in the scroll (11Q5 Col. XXVIII) is longer than that of the Greek. It has been published with discussion by J. A. Sanders (1963). Sanders defines Psalm 151 in the scroll as “a poetic midrash on 1 Sam 16:1-3,” composing a new poetry out of older biblical passages. I will discuss Psalm 151 in the scroll (11Q5 Col. XXVIII) with the discussion of the midrash interpetation of 1 Sam 16:1-13.

 Manuscript of 11Q5 Col. XXVIII (Psalm 151A and B) 


 Transcription of 11Q5 Col. XXVIII (Psalm 151 A and B)

transcription-of-11q5 Col.XXVIII

The transcription is taken from Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library (Revised Edition; Leiden: Brill, 2006).

Translation of 11Q5 Col. XXVIII (Psalm 151 A and B)

3. Hallelujah! A psalm of David, son of Jesse. I was smaller than my brothers, youngest of my father’s sons. So he made me a

4. shepherd for his sheep, a ruler over his goats. My hands fashioned a pipe, my fingers a lyre,

5. and I glorified the Lord. I said to myself, “The mountains do not testify

6. to Him, nor do the hills proclaim.” So-echo my words, O trees, O sheep, my deeds!

7. Ah, but who can proclaim, who declare the deeds of the Lord? God has seen all,

8. heard and attended to everything. He sent his prophet to anoint me, even Samuel,

9. to raise me up. My brothers went forth to meet him: handsome of figure, wondrous of appearance, tall were they of stature,

10. so beautiful their hair-yet the Lord God did not choose them. No, He sent and took me

11. who followed the flock, and anointed me with the holy oil. He set me as prince to His people, vacat ruler over the children of

12. His covenant vacat

13. [Dav]id’s first mighty d[ee]d after the prophet of God had anointed him. Then I s[a]w the Philistine,

14. throwing out taunts from the [enemy] r[anks     ]

The translation is taken from Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library (Revised Edition; Leiden: Brill, 2006).

LXX and 11Q5 Psalm 151 A by Sanders


LXX and 11Q5 Psalm 151 B by Sanders


Sander’s translation of LXX and 11Q5 Psalm 151 A and B here. For variant translations of Psalm 151 A, see Sanders’ book (pp. 100–103).

This psalm consists of two parts: (1) David’s anointing by God’s messenger (vv 1-5); and (2) David’s defeat of the Philistine warrior (vv 6-7). As we can see from the comparision of LXX Psalm 151 with 11Q5 Psalm 151 (Sanders divides 11Q5 Col. XXVIII into two parts: Psalm 151 A and 151 B), Psalm 151 in the scroll is different from that of the Greek. Sanders points the beauty and integrity of the Hebrew psalm in the parallelism between v. 1 and v. 7:

Whereas Jesse, David’s father, had made the lad shepherd and ruler over his flocks, God made him leader and ruler over his people. This parallel structure is truncated in the Greek to the bland statement in Greek verse 1, “I tended my father’s flock” [my emphasis].

This parallelism shows the contrast between Jesse’s intention and God’s intention. The most interesting omission in the Greek is the section appering in the scroll in verses 2b and 3, and this portion reinforces the contrast that is found in the parallelism:  


David’s election in 1 Sam 16:7 is the crux of the poetic midrash: “The Lord looks upon the heart” (יהוה יראה ללבב). As Sanders argues, however, the biblical passage fails to state what God saw in Dvid’s heart. The portion that is preserved in the scroll (vv. 2b-3) supplies the poetic midrash. David rendered glory to the Lord within his soul (v. 2b) event though he is insignificant in the outward appearance. The symbols in the next verse (v. 3), in my view, demonstrate a rhetorical contrast between significance and insignificance in the outward appearance:

The mountains do not witness to him, nor do the hills proclaim; the trees have cherished my words and the flock my words.   

David is identified with the insignificant trees and flock. The Lord who can see into the heart has seen and heard everything David has done and said (v. 4). Thus, God heeded David’s piety of soul by sending the prophet Samuel to take him from behind the flock to make him a great ruler. In this respect, the emphasis on David as a musician, especially in the Hebrew version, is significant; David rendered glory to the Lord within his soul. The tradition about David’s responsibility for making musical instruments is attested in 1 Chr 23:5, 2 Chr 7:6; 29:26-27, Neh 12:36, and Psalm 151:2.  

The Hebrew version provides more sophistigated midrash interpretatation of 1 Sam 16:1-3 than the Greek version. Sanders concludes his discussion on the main theme of Psalm 151 A (11Q5 Col. XXVIII) as follows: 

Psalm 151 A [in the scroll] makes a great point of insisting that David, unlike his brothers, is samll and humble (vv. 5 and 6), but in his soul wants only to glorify God wih his homemade lyre.

God chose not the brothers; rather he chose the little shephered behind Jesse’s flock and exalted him as leader of the covenant people (בני ברית).

Reference List

Charlesworth, J. H. and J. A. Sanders. “Psalm 151.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. 2 vols. Edited by J. H. Charlesworth. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983, 1985. Vol. 2, 612-15.

Flint, Peter W. The Dead Sea Psalms Scrolls and the Book of Psalms. Leiden: Brill, 1997.

Harrington, Daniel. “Psalm 151.” In Harper’s Bible Commentary. James L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row, c1988.

Sanders, J. A. The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967.

________. The Psalms Scroll of Qumran Cave 11 (11Qpsa). Oxford: Clarendon, 1965.


The Problem for Identifying the Qumran Community as the Essenes

One of my students sent me an email today mentioning an article of this week’s Time entitled Scholar Claims Dead Sea Scrolls ‘Authors’ Never Existed. It reports that Israeli scholar, Rachel Elior, claims that the Essenes never existed at all. Elior insists that “the Essenes were a fabrication by the 1st century A.D. Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus.” Elior claims that all other ancient sources (Pliny and Philo) either borrowed from each other or retailed second-hand stories. At the end of the article, Elior proposes that the authors of the scrolls as “the renegade sons of Zadok, a priestly caste banished from the Temple of Jerusalem by intriguing Greek rulers in 2nd century B.C.” What is Elior’s evidence? She argues that some of the early Hebrew texts dating back to the 2nd century B.C. attest to a biblical priestly heritage. Elior’s main argument is that the author of the Dead Sea Scrolls is not the Essenes but “the renegade sons of Zadok.” What we know about the authors of the scrolls from the scrolls is that they were opponents of Jerusalem Zadokites. The War Scroll (1QM) gives an example of the conflict between the “sons of light” and the “sons of darkness.”  

Elior’s hypothesis is very similar to the hypothesis of Rengstorf (1960) and Norman Golb, who wrote the book, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?-The Search for the Secret of Qumran (1995). Both Rengstorf and Golb have proposed that the scrolls found in the caves were left there by people who fled from Jerusalem with their manuscripts in order to hide them from the approaching Romans around the time of the First Jewish Revolt.

I’m convinced by Elior’s proposal that the community of the scrolls may be “the renegade sons of Zadok.” But her argument that the Essenes were a fabrication by Josephus is in doubt becuase it is her own interpretation of Josephus.

Now as we know, the theory that Qumran community might be the Essenes is a hypothesis since the word Essenes does not appear in the scrolls; they refer to themselves as men of holiness or sons of light. Thus, it is important to summrize the scholarship concerning the authorship of the scrolls. I will summarize the scholarship based on James C. VanderKam’s book The Dead Sea Scrolls Today (1994, for this issue see also Dead Sea Scrolls). 

The Essenes Hypothesis

eleazar-sukenik1Eleazar Sukenik (1947) was the first scholar who proposes that the scrolls might have a connection with the Essenes described by the historian Josephus. He supposed the connection between Qumran and the Essenes when he read the Manual of Discipline, which defined the way of life for a wilderness sect. The principal argument for identifying the inhabitants of Qumran as Essenes is that the beliefs and practices of the Essenes, as reported in ancient sources (Josephus, Pliny, Philo, and others), agree remarkably well with the beliefs and practices presented and reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls. See also Who Wrote the Scrolls?
Problem with the Essenes Hypothesis
Todd Beall compared 27 parallels between Josephus and the scrolls. He concludes that among 27 parellels 21 are probable parallels, but 6 are apparent discrepancies between them. These 6 discrepancies are consider to be problematic for identifying the Qumran community as the Essenes. But the discrepancies are not certain. Let us examine the entry procedure between Josephus and the scrolls as an example of the parallels.
VanderKam points out that the procedure seems to move through the same stages. So the discrepancy here is not certain. He argues that “it is more likely that in the case of the entry process, Josephus and the Manual once again agree.”
Other Theories
There are two others discussions concerning the identification of the Qumran group: (1) The Qumran community is Sadducees; and (2) Qumran had not permanent residents and the scrolls were placed by residents of Jerusalem who concealed them for safekeeping during the first revolt against Rome.
schiffman_lgFirst, Lawrence Schiffman is responsible for the Qumran-Sadducees hypothesis. What is his eveidence? According to him, several of the legal views on purity defended in Some of the Works of the Torah (4QMMT) as those of the authors-the people of Qumran-have significant overlaps with positions that rabbinic literature attributes to the Sadducees. VanderKam comments on this evidence as follows:
If he is correct and if 4QMMT is a sectarian text that dates from near the time of Qumran beginnings, it would imply-in his opinion-that the sect at its inception was Sadducean or at least exhibited heavy Sadducean influences on its legal positions (94).
golbsmallSecond,  Norman Golb has proposed that the the scrolls have nothing to do with the Qumran residents. He states that the scrolls found in the caves were not left there by the residents of Qumran but by people who fled from Jerusalem with their precious manuscripts in order to hide them from the approaching Romans around the time of the First Jewish Revolt. What is his evidence? He argues that the remote area was a suitable storage for depositing valuables. The copies of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice were found at Qumran and at Masada. It reveals that the preservation of the scrolls is not unique in Qumran.
For a more detailed update on this issue, see Douglas Mangum’s post Challenging the Essene Hypothesis.  

Melchizedek in 11Q13 (11QMelch)

The fragment manuscript 11QMelch is interesting enough. It preserves the midrash interpretation of Old Testament themes and the figure of Melchizedek, and the author of the Letter to the Hebrews applied the figure of Melchizedek to Jesus. 

Melchizedek is described as king of Salem as well as a priest of El Elyon in Gen 14:18-20. He is also mentioned as the eternal priest of YHWH in conjunction with the Israelite king in Ps 110:4. The Letter to the Hebrews portrayed Melchizedek as “a primeval, immortal being, coeternal with the Son of God” (Astour 1992, 687). The Qumran community portrayed Melchizedek as a heavenly high priest in 11QMelch (11Q13). The way Melchizedek is portrayed in 11QMelch is very ineresting to me. The author describes the figure of Melchizedek (a heavenly high priest) with the midrash interpretation of Old Testament themes, such as jubilee year (Leviticus 25) and the seventy weeks of years (Dan 9:24-27). I will discuss his figure in 11Q13 with the discussion of the midrash interpetation of the OT passages.

Manuscript of 11Q13 (11QMelch) Col. II

 11Q13 (11QMelch) Col. II

 Transcription of 11Q13 (11QMelch) Col. II 11QMelch Col. II

The transcription is taken from Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (eds.García Martinez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, 1208). Highlights in the transcription indicate the parts of the Old Testament verses which are quoted in the Hebrew text of the manuscript.

Translation of of 11Q 13 (11QMelch) Col. II

1 […] … […]

2 […] And as for what he said: Lev 25:13 « In [this] year of jubilee, [you shall return, each one, to his respective property », concerning it he said: Deut 15:2 « Th]is is

3 [the manner of the release:] every creditor shall release what he lent [to his neighbour. He shall not coerce his neighbour or his brother, for it has been proclaimed] a release

4 for G[od ». Its interpretation] for the last days refers to the captives, who […] and whose

5 teachers have been hidden and kept secret, and from the inheritance of Melchizedek, fo[r …] … and they are the inherita[nce of Melchize]dek, who

6 will make them return. And liberty will be proclaimed for them, to free them from [the debt of] all their iniquities. And this [wil]l [happen]

7 in the first week of the jubilee which follows the ni[ne] jubilees. And the d[ay of aton]ement is the e[nd of] the tenth [ju]bilee

8 in which atonement shall be made for all the sons of [light and] for the men [of] the lot of Mel[chi]zedek. […] … over [the]m … […] accor[ding to] a[ll] their [wor]ks, for

9 it is the time for the « year of grace » of Melchizedek, and of [his] arm[ies, the nat]ion of the holy ones of God, of the rule of judgment, as is written

10 about him in the songs of David, who said: Ps 82:1 « Elohim will [st]and in the assem[bly of God,] in the midst of the gods he judges ». And about him he sai[d: Ps 7:8-9 « And] above [it,]

11 to the heights, return: God will judge the peoples ». As for what he sa[id: Ps 82:2 « How long will you] judge unjustly and show partia[lity] to the wicked? [Se]lah. »

12 Its interpretation concerns Belial and the spirits of his lot, wh[o …] turn[ing aside] from the commandments of God to [commit evil.]

13 But, Melchizedek will carry out the vengeance of Go[d’s] judgments, [and on that day he will fr]e[e them from the hand of] Belial and from the hand of all the sp[irits of his lot.]

14 To his aid (shall come) all « the gods of [justice »; and h]e is the one w[ho …] all the sons of God, and … […]

15 This […] is the day of [peace about whi]ch he said [… through Isa]iah the prophet, who said: [Isa 52:7 « How] beautiful

16 upon the mountains are the feet [of] the messen[ger who] announces peace, the mess[enger of good who announces salvati]on, [sa]ying to Zion: your God [reigns. »]

17 Its interpretation: The mountains [are] the prophet[s …] … […] for all … […]

18 And the messenger i[s] the anointed of the spir[it] as Dan[iel] said [about him: Dan 9:25 « Until an anointed, a prince, it is seven weeks. » And the messenger of]

19 good who announ[ces salvation] is the one about whom it is written that […]

20 « To comfo[rt] the [afflicted », its interpretation:] to instruct them in all the ages of the wo[rld …]

21 in truth … […] … […]

22 […] has turned away from Belial and will re[turn …] … […]

23 […] in the judgment[s of] God, as is written about him: [Isa 52:7 « Saying to Zi]on: your God rules. » [« Zi]on » i[s]

24 [the congregation of all the sons of justice, those] who establish the covenant, those who avoid walking [on the pa]th of the people. And « your God » is

25 [… Melchizedek, who will fr]e[e them from the ha]nd of Belial. And as for what he said: Lev 25:9 « You shall blow the hor[n in] all the [l]and of

The translation is taken from Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (eds.García Martinez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, 1209). Highlights in the translation indicate the parts of the Old Testament verses.

Melchizedek in 11Q13

The figure Melchizedek in 11Q13 (11QMelch) has usually been described as an angel (Martínze 1992, 176). However, some scholars argue that Melchizedek is a divine title (Van de Water 2006, 75-86). In order to understand the figure of Melchizedek, it is necessary to discuss how the manuscript interprets the Old Testament passages in relation with Melchizedek. 11Q13 interprets a number of verses from Isaiah, Leviticus, and other books in the Old Testament dealing with remission of debts and liberation of slaves at the end of a jubilee cycle as referring to the last judgment.

Joseph A. Fitzmyer discussed widely the midrash interpretation of 11Q13 Col. II (Fitzmyer 1967). Most discussions below came from Fitzmyer’s article. I will not discuss the problem of reconstruction of the manuscript. If you are interested in the discussion of reconstruction of the manuscript, see Fitzmyer’s article for details.

Melchizedek as God’s Agent for the Execution of Divine Judgment

The name Melchizedek does not appear until v. 5. But the figure of Melchizedek is described in relation to the year of jubilee in vv. 1-4 and is developed as one who proclaims the year of jubilee in vv 6-14. He is the one who proclaims the year of jubilee (וקרא להמה דרור; v. 6) and release to the captives to those who are to return to their own possessions. The phrase [בשנת היובל‏ [הזואת (In [this] year of jubilee) in v. 2 is quoted from Lev 25:13: “In this year of jubilee (בשנת היובל‏ הזואת) you shall return, every one of you, to your property.” The year of jubilee is further identified in v. 9 as a year of good favor (לשנת הרצון) decreed by God for Melchizedek and the tenth jubilee ([ה]יו[בל העשירי) in v. 7. The figure of Melchizedek is introduced into this context of a jubilee year. What then is meant by “the year of jubilee” in this manuscript? Fitzmyer interprets the year of jubilee mentioned in this manuscript as follows:

In the course of the midrashic development the year of jubilee mentioned first in line 2 becomes “the last jubilee” (line 7), or “the tenth jubilee” (line 7, at the end). In other words, it seems to refer to the end of the 490 years, or “the seventy weeks of years” of Dan 9:24-27. It is called the year of “release” (šmth) proclaimed for the Lord (lines 3-4) and of “liberation” (drr), such as was announced to the captives of Isa 61:1.

As the year of liberation, the year of jubilee is identified with the day of judgment which is executed by Melchizedek. Accordingly, Fitzmyer argues that “Melchizedek is given a special role in the execution of divine judgment which is related a jubilee year (Fitzmyer 1969, 29).” Fitzmyer’s opinion on the figure of Melchizedek is plausible because Melchizedek carries out the vengence of God’s judgments in v. 13 (ומלכי צ̇דק יקום נקם משפטי א[ל וביום ההואה).

Melchizedek in Association with God’s Deliverance

The day of jubilee or the day of judgment executed by Melchizedek is further identified with the salvation proclaimed by the herald of Isa 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messager who announces peace, who bring good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.'” There is no doubt that vv. 15-16 are quoted from Isa 52:7: “This […] is the day of [peace about whi]ch he said [… through Isa]iah the prophet, who said: [Isa 52:7 « How] beautiful upon the mountains are the feet [of] the messen[ger who] announces peace, the mess[enger of good who announces salvati]on, [sa]ying to Zion: your God [reigns. »].” Fitzmyer emphasizes that the “herald” (מבשר) in the book of Isaiah is explicitly identified with “the Messiah” (Firzmyer 1969, 30). Thus, Melchizedek himself is to be identified with the “herald” who is also “the Messiah” or “anointed one.” Fitzmyer proposed to restore the end of the line 18 as follows:

I propose to restore the end of the line, reading Daniel and referring it to the [anointed prince]  (משיח נגיד) of Dan 9:25. this identification of the herald with the Anointed One of Dan 9, though not wholly certain, is in reality not so striking as the idntification of the mebasser, or “herald of good tidings,” with a Messiah.

The two figures of Melcizedek in 11Q13, God’s agent for the execution of divine judgment and association with God’s deliverance, probably reflect Jewish tradition to the figures of Melchizedek. For example, 1 Enoch also preserves the judgment which is declared to Michael by God (1En 10:12). Jewish tradition regarded Melchizedek as “high priest” and Michael is called the heavenly high priest in the Babylonian Talmud (Hagigah 12b).

Reference List

Astour, Michael C. 1992. “Melchizedek.” ABD IV: 685-88.

Brooke, G. 1992. “Melchizedek (11QMelch).” ABD IV: 687-88.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. 1967. “Further Light on Melchizedek from Qumran Cave 11.” JBL 86/1: 25-41. 

Garcı́a Martı́nez, Florentino ; Tigchelaar, Eibert J. C.:The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (Translations). Leiden; New York : Brill, 1997-1998.

Martinze, García. 1992. Qumran and Apocalyptic. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

Van de Water, Rick. 2006. “Michael and Yhwh: Toward Identifying Melchizedek in 11Q13.” JSP 16/1: 75-86.

4Q246: 4QAramaic Apocalypse

4Q246 Manuscript


Transcription of 4Q246


Translation of  4Q246

Col. I 

1. [   ] rested upon him, he fell befor the throne

2. [… k]ing, rage is coming to the world, and your years

3. […]. . . your vision, all of it is about to come unto the world.

4. [… mi]ghty [signs], distress is coming uopn the land

5. […]  great slaughter in the provinces

6. […] king of Assyria [ and E]gypt

7. […] he will rule over the land

8. […] will do and all will serve

9. [… gr]eat will be called and he will be designated by his name.

Col II

1. He will be called the Son of God, and they will call him the Son of the Most High like a shooting star.

2. that you saw, so will be thier kingdom, they will rule several years over

3. the earth and crush everything, a people will crush another people and nation (will crush) nation.

4. Blank (space left balnk in the manuscript) Until the people of God arises and makes everyone rest from warfare.

5. Their kingdom will be an eteranl kingdom, and their paths will be righteous. They will judge

6. the earth with truth, and all (nations) will make peace. The warfare will cease from the land,

7. and all (nations) will worship him. The great God will be their help,

8. He Himself will fight for them, putting peoples into their power, all of them

9. He will cast them away before him, His dominion will be an everlasting dominion and all the abysses

The main question of 4Q246 (Aramaic Apocalypse) is the personage designated the “Son of God.” Who is the “Son of God”? Is this a positive figure or a negative figure? J. T. Milik insists that the “Son of God” refers to a Seleucid king, referring Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Milik 1992, 383). Florentino Garcia Martinez suggests that it is an angelic savior as Michael, Melchizedek, and the Prince of Light (Martinez 1992, 162-79). Most scholars view the figure as a messianic redeemer who will overthrow God’s enemies and establish the kingdom of God’s people (Cross 1996, 1-13). But Joseph A. Fitzmyer argues that the reference of the Son of God is not a messiah, but a coming Jewish ruler, perhaps a member of the Hasmonean dynasty (Fitzmyer 1993, 173-74). According to the scholars, therefore, the title “Son of God” would be either a heavenly figue or a human being.

Martin Hengel suggests that the figure is similar to “the one like a Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13-14 (Hengel 1976, 45), and argues that the tiles may be interpreted collectively “of the Jewish people.” I also argue that the author of 4Q246 was influenced by Daniel 7. The two texts reveal such an extensive degree of verbal, thematic, and structural correspondence. The most striking parallels between the two texts are the two phrases שלטנה שלטן עלם (“whose dominion is an everlasting dominion” [Dan 7:14; cf. 4Q246 2:9]) and מלכותה מלכות עלם (“his/its kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom” [Dan 7:27; cf. 4Q246 2:5]). Karl A. Kuhn argues that the verb דוש (crush) supplements these two verbal correspondences (Dan 7:23; 4Q246 2:3) in terms of the thematic parallels (Kuhn 2007, 28). In addition to these parallels, Kuhn suggests that the two texts present a transition of the dominion from the beasts/provinces to an individual figure/the people of God:

1. Following the prologue, both begin with a description of distress and destruction resolved by God’s intervention and the coming of God’s agent: in Daniel, the “one like a son of man,” and in 4Q246, the “Son of God, Son of the Most High” (Dan 7:4-14; cf. 4Q246 1:4-2:1ab).

2. The first account is followed by a second, again depicting the dominion of the evil beast(s)/peoples until the people of God arise and gain possession of the kingdom (Dan 7:15-22; cf. 4Q246 2:1c-7a).

3. Both texts conclude with still another rehearsal of the overthrow of the beast(s)/peoples who oppose God’s people (Dan 7:23-28; cf. 4Q246 2:7b-9).

Reference List

Cross, Frank Moore. 1996. “Notes on the Doctrine of the Two Messiahs at Qumran and the Extracanonical Daniel Apocalypse (4Q246).” in Current Research and Technological Developments on the Dea Sea Scrolls: Conference on the Texts from the Judean Desert, Jerusalem. 30 April 1995. Edited by W. Parry and Stephen D. Rick. STDJ 20. Leiden: Brill. 

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. 4Q246: The “Son of Gpd” Document from Qumran. Biblica 74 (1993): 153-74.

Hengel, Martin. 1976. The Son of God: The Origin of Christology and the History of Jewish-Hellenistic Religion. Translated by John Bowden. Philadelphia: Fortress. 

Kuhn, Karl L. 2007. “The ‘One like a Son of Man’ Becomes the ‘Son of God'” CBQ 69: 222-42.

Martinez, Florentino Garcia Martinez. 1992. Qumran and Apocalyptic: Studies on the Aramaic Texts from Qumran. STDJ 9. New York: Brill.   

Milik, J. T. 1992. “Les modeles aramaeens du livre d’Esther dans la grotte 4 de Qumran.” RevQ 15: 321-406.

F. M. Cross’ Reconstruction of 4Q242

4q242-4qprnab-ar-4qprayer-of-nabonidus-ar-copy.jpgThere are five fragments in the Prayer of Nabonidus (4Q242 [The Prayer of Nabonidus]) as you can see the picture: 1, 2a, 2b, 3, and 4. In 1984, however, Frank Moore Cross discussed a problem of reconstruction of four fragments: 1, 2a, 2b, 3 (“Fragments of the Pryaer of Nabonidus,” IEJ 34 [1984]: 260-64). He reconstructed a proper replacement of the fragments of 4Q242 with the aid of facsimile. I would like to review how Cross’ reconstructs the fragments and then provide the lexical analysis of 4Q242.

The Facsimile of 4Q242 Fragments 1, 2a, 2b, 3


Transcription of 4Q242 of Fragments 1, 2a, 2b, 3


 Translation by Frank Moore Cross (Fragment 1, 2a, 2b, and 3)

1. The words of the p[ra]yer which nabonidus, king of [Ba]bylon, the great king, pray[ed] when he was stricken]

2. with an evil disease by the decree of G[o]d in Teman. [I Nabonidus] was stricken with [an evil disease]

3. for seven years, and from [that] (time) I was like [unto a beast and I prayed to the Most High]

4. and, as for my sin, he forgave it (or: my sin he forgave). A diviner – who was a Jew o[f the Exiles – came to me and said:]

5. ‘Recount and record (these things) in order to give honour and great[ness] to the name of the G[od Most High.’ And Thus I wrote: I]

6. was stricken with an evil disease in Teman [by the decree of the Most High God, and, as for me,]

7. seven years I was praying [to] gods of silver and gold, [bronze, iron,]

8. wood, stone (and) clay, becuase [I was of the opini]on that the[ey] were gods [       ].

In Cross’ transcription of the reconstruction of the prayer, I highlight what he adds to the older reconstruction of other scholars, such as J. T. Milik. Cross argues that the reconstruction of lines 6, 7, and 8 is important.

(1) Line 6: Fragment 1 ends with the expression ]בש̇חנא ב (evil disease). Fragment 2b locked in above and below with Fragment 2a and 3, reads in line בתימן (Teman). Cross suggests that if these two reconstructions are correct, then all reconstructions of lines 1-5 are incorrect. He argues that Fragments 2a and 2b must be moved much closer to Fragment 1 than in Milik’s reconstruction (J. T. Milik: Piere de Nabonide et autres ecrits d’un cycle de Daniel, RB 63 [1956]: 407-15).

(2) Line 7: Both for the overall length of the lines in the column and for judging the distance separating the fragments. Cross sussgests the most natural reading of the line 7 is 7 …[קדם]‬ שנין שבע מצלא (seven years I was praying [to] gods of silver and glod). This reconstruction is compared to Daniel 6:11 and Daniel 5:4.

(3) Line 8: This line has been reconstructed quite generally as follows: אעא אבנא חספא מן די(wood, stone, and clay, becuase. . .).

Cross argues that if these reconstruction of the three lines is correct, then the fragments must be placed with a gap of one letter in line 5 and the reading יקר ור֯[בו] לשם (honor and greatness of the name) imposes itself. In line 4 the gap becomes so narrow that there is room only for the space between words: והוא̇ יהודי (He is a Jew). The reading reconstructed, והוא̇ [גזר] יהודי  (He is a Jewish diviner), is odd, since גזר is not needed after הוא̇. Cross argues that the gap in line 3 has spawned almost as many implausible proposals as there have been scholars who reconstructed the text. Cross suggests to read the gap “from that time” after “for seven years.” Cross suggests to reconstruct line 2 as בשחנא באישא בפתגם א֯[לה‏]א בתימן (with an evil disease by the decree of G[o]d in Teman), comparing to Daniel 4:21 so that Cross prefers to read “God of Most High.” It is interesting that אלהא (God) may be used only of the god of Israel in Daniel (Daniel 5:2b). Cross argues that the usual reading of line 1‎the great king when he was striken” is too short. Cross adds “the pronoun הוא̇ (He) between the conjuction and the passive participle in comparison with lines 6-7. Comparing Daniel 4:1 Cross follows Grelot’s reconstruction in restoring [אנה נבני בשחנא באישא]. In line 3, Cross has restored [א[נה לחיוא וצלית קדם עליא .The Aramiac “Most High” (עליא) alone is about as frequent as “God of Most High” אלהא עליא      

In general, Cross’ reconstruction of the lines 1-5 is much closer to the syntax of the Aramaic in Daniel. But both the sentences and the meaing of the prayer in which Cross reconstructs differ little from others, such as Milik.


צ[ל]ת : comm fem sing deter “prayer.”

צליpael perf 3 masc sing  “to incline, turn; pray.”

כתיש: peal passive part masc sing “to hit, strike.”

שחנ: comm masc sing deter “boil.”

באיש: comm masc sing deter “evil.”

פתגם: comm masc sing const “word.”

א֯[לה‏]א בתימן̇: “God of Teman.”

הוית‎‪: peal perf 1 comm sing  “to be, become.”

שוי: peal perf 3 masc sing  “to be like; to put, place.” 

אנפו: comm masc plur const  “face, nose.”

אסא: aph perf 3 masc sing “to heal.”

חטא: comm masc sing const “sin.”

שבק: peal perf 3 masc sing “to leave.”

גזר: comm masc sing “cut or diviner.” Perhaps determining the future; perhaps making decisions regarding spirits; perhaps cutting the way off for evil spirits.  

החוי̇‎‪: haph imper masc sing “to declare.”

כתב: peal imper masc sing “to write.”

מעבד‎‪: peal infinitive const “to make, do.”

יקר‎‪: comm masc sing “honor.”

לשם א[להא עליא: “to the name of the God of Most High.‎”

כתיש : peal passive part masc sing “to hit, strike.”

מצלא: pael part masc sing “to incline, turn; pray.”

כספא ודהבא:”silver and gold.”‎

אעא אבנא חספא: “wood stone, and clay.”

סב]ר: peal part masc sing “to think, suppose.”

Orthography of DSS

The Dead Sea Scrolls were written by hundreds of diffrent hands. For example, the scribe of 1QS is slightly different from that of 1QH. The Table of Scribal Alphabets (orthography-dss.pdf) by Malachi Marin (The Scribal Character of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Vol. 1) helps us to compare and contrast between scrolls.

Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library


The editor of the software, Immanuel Tov, said, “the Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library (DSSEL) provides the users with a comprehensive tool for the study of the non-biblical texts from the Judean Deseart offering transcriptions, translations, images, an inventory, and software for carrying out searches and viewing the images” (Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library, Revised Edition, 2006).

DSSEL contains all the non-biblical Qumran texts presented in printed form in the Dead Sea Scrolls Readers (6 volumes set). You can search for words of Hebrew/Aramaic within the texts. One of the best things of this software is images of the scrolls. I most cases, each text, column, or fragment is accompanied by a single black and white image.