Ongoing studies and recently published scrolls have confirmed two assumptions dating from the beginning of Scrolls research: firstly, that the ascetic communal group depicted by the Rule of the Community (1QS) and the Damascus Document was an Essene community of the type described by Philo and Josephus and, secondly, that the site of Qumran was settled by members of this community, to whom the scrolls found in the caves nearby belonged. However, one feature of the accepted picture that has not been reexamined in light of the new data is the history of the Qumran community as reconstructed fifty years ago. A linchpin of this reconstruction, based, in the main, on the pesher of Isa. 40:3 found in the Rule of the Community 8:12–16, is the notion that the leader of this group, the Teacher of Righteousness, left Jerusalem and settled with his followers in exile in the desert: "And when these have become a community in Israel in compliance with these arrangements they are to be segregated from within the dwelling of men of sin to go to the desert in order to prepare there His path. As it is written (Isa 40:3): 'In the desert prepare the way of the Lord, straighten in the steppe a roadway for our God'. This is the study of the Torah which He commanded by the hand of Moses to do, according to everything which has been revealed from time to time". It is usually argued that the author of the pesher understood the biblical verse to prescribe a life of Torah study in a real desert, and that Qumran constituted such a place. The analysis offered by the present article shows that the entire verse, and not just certain of its words, was equated with the activity of Torah study. This is clear from the correct text – confirmed by 1QS and the parallel text from a cave 4 copy (4Q258 6:6–8) – which reads הואה מדרש התורה instead of the usual היאה מדרש התורה. The syntactical analysis of the corrected text shows that the Rule understood the verse as a figurative directive for communal life centered around the study of the Torah, conducted not in a real desert but in a figurative one. The "desert" is most likely the segregation of the community from the majority of Israel.
|Translated title of the contribution
|Not Exile in the Desert but Exile in Spirit: The Pesher of Isa. 40:3 in the "Rule of the Community
|Meghillot: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls / מגילות: מחקרים במגילות מדבר יהודה
|Published - 2004