Meditation on Israel’s History 4Q462

“To the Jew first and also to the Gentile,” wrote Paul the apostle, attempting to delme the ideal audience for his gospel (Rom. 1:16). His Jewish contemporaries would agree that the Jew comes first, but there would be significant differences of opinion about Gentiles. They were clearly outside of the faith of Israel, but they had to play some part in God’s plan. Were they simply there to provide a hapless foil for the chosen people, to be eliminated or subdued when God redeemed Israel? Or could they somehow be incorporated into Israel through conversion, and enjoy some of the blessings of Israel?

Both points of view could claim support from the Bible. The prophetic books are ful1 of vitriolic denunciations of the Gentile powers, whose occasional downfa11 was greeted with open glee (as in the the prophecy of Nahum). On the other hand, even the loathsome Assyrians could be imagined as repentant sinners (as in the book of Jonah). Gentile armies could be mythologized as the dreadful legions of Gog and Magog (Ezek. 38-39), destined only for slaughter, but Gentiles could also be imagined saying, “Let us go to the LORD’s mountain, that he may teach us his ways” (Isa. 2:3).

The same ambivalence is reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the War Scroll (text 8), the Children of Light wage the final battle royal against Gentile armies, without a suggestion that the latter might conceivably have an interest in learning of the Lord’s ways. But the Charterfor Israel in the Last Days points out that the Gentile nations will finally come to serve the Leader of the Nation (text 6, 5:28-29), and the Damascus Document allows for the presence of converts to Judaism in the community (text 1, Geniza 14:5), although they will rank lowest of all. The Temple Scroll, though legislating for an ideal Israel generally devoid of Gentiles, allows for their entrance into the outermost Temple court after conversion to Judaism (see text 131).

The present text is the only one of the scrolls that seems to speak of Gentiles with any sympathy — although that sympathy is limited to a certain rueful regret that they did not recognize God’s plan for his people. It is possible that the unnamed Gentiles are Edomites, if 1. 5 is properly understood. “Rekem” was a famous city located in biblical Edomite territory. If so, then the historical setting may be the forced conversion of the Idumeans (Edomites) to Judaism in the time of the Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus I (134-104 B.C.E.).

The human families descended from Noah’s three sons disperse; Israel inherits the Holy Land, while the Edomites (.7) must be content with their territory to the south and east of Palestine.

Frag. 1 2[ . . . Shem and] Ham andJapeth [ . . . ] 3[ . . . ] to Jacob, and he [said . . . ] and remembered [ . . . ] 4[ . . . ] to Israel [ . . . ] Then [they] shall say [ . . . ] s[ . . . ] to Rekem we went, for [ . . . ] was taken [ . . . ] 6[ . . . ] to slaves forJacob in love [ . . . ] 7[ . . . he will] give it as a possession to many.

In the time to come, the Gentiles will recognize the greatness of God, their own sin, and the special status of Israel.

The LORD, ruler of all [ . . . ] 8[ . . . ] His glory, which all at once will fill the waters and the earth [ . . . ] 9[ . . . ] dominion is with Him alone. The light was with them, but on us was [the darkness . . . ] 10[ . . . ] the era of darkness [has passed] and the era of light has come, and they will rule forever. Therefore they shall say [ . . . ] 11[ . . . ] to Israel, for in our midst is the beloved people,Jacob [ . . . ]

Israel’s endurance during their domination by foreign powers is remembered, and the judgment that later came on the oppressors.

|2[ . . . ] they toiled and endured and cried out to the LORD and [ . . . ] 13[ . . . ] now, see, they were put in the power of Egypt a second time in the age of the monarchy, and they endured [ . . . ] 14[ . . . ] the inhabitants of Philistian and Egypt became booty and a ruin and her pillars [ . . . ] is[ . . . ] to exalt the wicked man so that she will become impure [ . . . ] 16[ . . . ] her bold face will be changed, in her splendor and adornments and garments [ . . . ] 17[ . . . ] and what she did to her, the impurity Of [ . . . ] 18[ . . . ] rejected just ac she was before being built [ . . . ] 19[ . . . ] and he will remember Jerusalem [ . . . ]

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