Commentary on Psalms 4Q171, 4Q173, lQ16

In the Qumran commentaries on the Psalter, the Teacher of Righteousness, the Wicked Priest, and the Man of the Lie are on center stage (see the Introduction for an initial discussion of these figures). The largest surviving fragments of 4Q171 preserve a running commentary on Psalm 37, which deals with the necessity of the righteous to keep faith in God despite the apparent successes of the wicked. God will ensure that both righteous and wicked get their due: for the righteous, a reward for their faithfulness; for the wicked, punishment.

The Yahad members and their leader, the Teacher of Righteousness, represent the righteous of the psalms, while their enemies, the Wicked Priest and the Man of the Lie, who have persecuted them, represent the wicked. The psalm and its attendant commentary are shot through with a passionate desire to see the injustices of the world put right, tempered with a recognition that patience is required for the suffering that is inevitable while waiting for God to act. These commentaries, then, have an eschatological fervor that the more historical commentaries, such as text 4 (A Commentaries on Habakkuk) and text 21 (A Commentary on Nabum) only occasionally display.

The righteous, who belong to the sect, must endure suffering, but may expect that a final judgment will set all accounts right.

4Q171 Frags. 1-2 Col. 1 20[“He will make your innocence shine like the light and your justice like noonday” (37:6). [ . . . ] the will of 22[ . . . ] lunatics have chosen 23[ . . . ] those who love dissolution and lead astray 24[ . . . ] wickedness through the power of [God].
25[“Be] silent before [the LORD and] wait for him, and do not be jealous of the successful man 26who does wicked deeds” (37:7).

[This refers] to the Man of the Iie who led many people astray with deceitful 27statements, because they had chosen trivial matters but did not listen to the spokesmen for true knowledge, so that Col. 2 1they will perish by sword, famine, and pestilence.
“Renounce your anger and abandon your resentment, don’t 2yearn to do evil, because evildoers will be wiped out” (37:8-9a).

This refers to all who return 3to the Law and do not hesitate to repent of their sin, because all who refuse 4to repent of their faults will be wipecl out.
“But those who trust in the LORD are the ones who will inherit the earth” (37 9b).
This refers Sto the company of His chosen, those who do His will.

The sect’s eschatological timetable allowed that there would beforty yearsfrom the time of their Teacher’s death to the final eschatological showdown between Good and Evil.

“Very soon there will be no wicked man; 6look where he was, he’s not there” (37:10).
This refers to all of the wicked at the end of 7the forty years. When they are completed, there will no longer be any wicked person 8on the earth.
“Then the meek will inherit the earth and enjoy all the abundance that peace brings” (37:11).
This refers to 9the company of the poor who endure the time of error but are delivered from all the snares of “Belial. Afterwards they will enjoy all the [ . . . ] of the earth and grow fat on every 11human luxury].

The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes [his teeth against him. But the LO]RD laughs at him; for he knows l3his day is coming” (37:12-13).

This refers to the cruel Israelites in the house ofJudah who ‘4plot to destroy those who obey the Law who are in the society of the Yahad. But God will not leave them in their power.

Ephraim and Manasseh are already present as code names in the Commenta~ry on Nahum. They represerlt the religio-politicalfactions that side with the sect’s enemies. The reference to “the Priest” is obscureÑis he the same as the Teacher of Righteousness or a dfferent leader?

“The wicked have drawn a sword, they have bent their bows, to strike down the poor and needy, to slaughter those who live honestly. May their sword pierce themselves, may their bows break!” (37:14-15).

This refers to the wicked of”Ephraim and Manasseh,” who will try to do away ‘8with the Priest and the members of his party during the time of trial that is coming upon them. But God will save them ‘9from;1 their power and afterwards hand them over to the wicked Gentiles for judgment.
Better is the little the righteous man has than the great abundance of the wicked” (37:16).

[ . . . This refers to] 22the one who obeys the Law who does not [. . .]
23for wicked things, for “the arms [of the wicked will be broken, but supporting the righteous] 24is the LORD” (37:17).

[“The LORD cares about the life of the pure; what belongs to them will last forever” (37: 18)
.] [This~refers to those with whom] 2sHe is pleased [ . . . ]

“Returning from the wilderness” may mean that some of the sect were in exile but would return at the Last Days.

26 “They [will no]t be put to shame in [an evil time”] (37:19a).

[This refers to] Col. 3 the ones who return from the wilderness, who will live a thousand generations in virtue. To them and their descendants belongs all the heritage of 2Adam for ever.
“In a time of famine, they wil1 have plenty, but the wicked will perish” (37:19b-20a).
This means that He will sustain them in famine during the time of e[rro]r, but many 4will perish from famine and pestilence, all who did not go forth [ . . . ] to jo[in] the company of His chosen.

Those who love the LORD are as magnificent as rams” (37:20b).

This refers to [the company of His chosen] who shall be leaders and princes, [like leaders ofl 6sheep among their flocks.

Al1 shall vanish like smoke (37:20c)

This refers to the wicked princes who oppressed His holy people, and who shall scatter like smoke that dissipates in the wind.

Control over the Temple Mount and the sacrifices made at the Temple was an important ambition of the Qumran group.

“The wicked borrow and do not repay; 9but the righteous give generously, for those whom (]od blesses will inherit the earth, but: those whom He curses will be exterminated” (37:21-22).
This refers to the company of the poor, w[ho will ge]t the possessions -of all [ . . . ], who will inherit the lofty mount of Is[rael and] enjoy His holy mount. [“Those whom He curses] I will be exterminated”: these are the cruel Jews, the w]icked of Israel who will be exterminated and destroyed forever.

[“A man’s path] is ordained by the LORD; he delights in all His ways. If he stu[mbles, he shall not] fall, because the L[ORD holds his hand”] (37:23-24).
This refers to the priest, the Teacher of R[ighteousness, whom] l6God [ch]ose to be His servant [and] ordained him to form Him a company [ . . . ] 7[his] way He smoothed for the truth.
[“I have been young], and now I am old, but I have not [seen a righteous man] 18abandoned and his children be~gging food. [Al1 the time] he is lending generously, and his chil[dren are blessed”] (37:25-26).

19[This] refers to the Teacher of [Righteousness . . . ]

Col. 4 “. . . judg[ment, and will not forsake his devotees. For]ever they are protected. But the descendants of the w[icked will be exterminated”] (37g.28).

[This refers to] the cruel 2[Israelites . . . ] the Law.

“The righteo[us will inherit the earth and dwell for]ever on it” (37:29).

[This refers to . . . ] for a thousand~[generations].

3[“The righteous man utters] wisdom, his tongue speaks 4[justice, in lhis heart is God’s Law: that’s why his steps are sure” (37:30-31).

This refers to] the truth that the [Teacher] spoke 5[ . . . ] he declared it to them.

The wording of the following comment implies that the Teacher was in danger from the Wicked Priest, but still alive, at the time of composition. The writer is confident that the Teacher will live through this time of trial. The mention of the “Law that the Teacher sent to the Priest” is intriguing, and scholars have suggested that this “Law” may 6e text 84, A Sectarian Manifesto, or text 131, The Temple Scroll.

“The wicked man observes the righteous man and seeks [to kill him. But the LO]RD [Wi11 not leave him in his power and will not co]ndemn hlm when he comes to trial” (37:32-33).

This refers to the wicked [Pri]est who ob[serv]es the [Teach]er of Righteous[ness and seeks] to kill him [ . . . ] and the Law 9that he sent to him, but God will not le[ave him in his power] and will not [condemn him when] he comes to trial. But to the [wicked God will give] his just [de]serts, by putting him into the power of the cruel Gentiles to do with him [what they want].

[“Look to the L]ORD and obey his rules; then He will honor you so that you will inherit the earth. You will look on] while the wicked are: exterminated” (37:34).

[This refers to . . . ] who will see judgement passed on the wicked with [the company of] His chosen they will rejoicw in a sure heritage [forever].
l3[“I once saw a wicked man, cruel and stretched [out like a stately tree. But] when I passed by his home again, he was gone. I [looked for him] lbut he was l4[nowhere to be found”] (37:35-36).

[This refers to] the Man of the Lie, [who . . . ] against God’s chosen~people [and sought to put an end to [ . . . ] 15[ . . . ] judgment [ . . . ] he defiantly presumed 16[ . . . ]

[“Take note of the pure, observe] the honest, [for there is a future for the man] of peace” (37:37).

This refers to [ . . . ] 17[ . . . ] of peace.

“Sinners i8perish as one, and the future [of the wicked will be cut short”] (37:38).

[This refers to . . . ] they will perish and be exterminated 19from the company of the Yahad.

“The [deliverance of the righteous is the LORD’S work; He is their stronghold in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and] 20rescues them and saves them from the wicked [and delivers them because they trusted in Him”] (37:9-40).

[This refers to . . . ] God will deliver them and save them from the power of the wi[cked . . . ]

Since the commentary on Psalm 45 comes immediately after that on Psalm 37, it is evident that the writer did not attempt to comment on every verse of the Psalter.

23″To the choirmaster, on [Shosan]im. [For the sons of Korah, a wisdom psalm, a song of love . . . “] (45: heading).

[This refers to . . . t]hhey are the seven divisions of 24the captivity of Is[rael . . . ]

My heart is [astir] with a good message: [I address my poem to: the king”] (45:1a).

[This refers to . . . ho]ly soirit, for[ . . . ] books of [ . . . ]

“My tongue is the pen of 27[an adept scribe”] (45:1b).

[This refers to] the Teacher of [Righteousness . J! ] God [gave] with an eloquent tongue [ . . . ]

Frag. 13 3″God spoke [in His holiness, I will joyfully divide Shechem] 4[and the valley of Succ]oth I will measure. [Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mine, Ephraim is my chief fortress”] (60:6-7).

[This refers to Gile]ad and the half-tribe [of Manasseh . . . ] 6they shall be gathered [ . . . ]

4Q173 Frag. 1 2[“. . . vain] for you [to get up early, stay up late, eat your meals in worry, for truly] 3[He gives his friends sleep”] (127:2).

[This refers to those] who seek [ . . . ] 4[ . . . secr]et things to the Teacher of Righteousness [ . . . ]
5[the pr]iest for the ti[me] to come [ . . . ]

7[“Now children are a perpetual gift from the LORD”] (127:3).

[This refers to] those who inherit the possessions [ . . . ]

A very fragmentary interpretation of Psalms was found in Cave 1. The few legible pieces speak, like the HabakFuk interpretation, of the “Kittim.”

lQ16 Frag. 3 2[ . . . ] they had recognized [ . . . ] 3[ . . . ] “Kings of great armies flee, [flee away; even the housewife shares the spoil” (68:12).]

[This refers to]J[ . . .3 the beauty of [ . . .3 5[ . . . ] who will share [ . . . ]

Frag. 8 2[ . . . ~`In the midst maidens beating tambour]ines; in assemblies bless God” (68:25-26).

3[This refers to . . . ] the convocation to bless the Name [ . . . ]

Frag. 9 [“From Your temple overlooking Jerusalem, kings bring You] tribute” (68:29).

This refers to all the rul[ers ofl 2[the Kittim . . . ] before him in Jerusalem.

“You have rebuked [the swamp beast,] that herd of bulls, the Gentile heifers; he tramples on bars ofl silver” (68:30).
The “swamp beast” refers to 4[ . . . the] Kittim [ . . . ]

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