4Q158 is a variety of “rewritten Bible,” selecting portions from Genesis and Exodus and combining them with other biblical texts. The passages that are added often come from parallel passages in the book of Deuteronomy. Sometimes, in addition to combining biblical portions, the text adds words or whole paragraphs unknown from any version of the Bible that has survived antiquity. Just what are we to make of this exercise?
At various junctures the point seems to be biblical interpretation. For example, by juxtaposing Exodus 20 with Deuteronomy 5 in frags. 7-8, the author may have sought to clarify the confusing chronology surrounding the revelation at Sinai. Most casual readers of the Bible never notice the problems that emerge when attempting to piece together a precis of those events. Ancient scholars did notice, however; they observed that according to the biblical narratives, Moses went up the mountain to meet God at least seven times. He is only explicitly said to descend twice. How can these facts be rationalized, and why this marathon mountain climbing? Resolving details of this sort taxed the energies and ingenuity of ancient biblical interpreters. The problems of the Sinai episode finally drove early rabbis to assert, “There is neither early nor late in the Torah!” They meant that the narratives were just not in any particular order., and when chronology was the issue, one had to rearrange the material as logic dictated. Certain aspects of 4Q158 seem to represent this sort of problem solving.
On the other hand, the reasoning behind other textual combinations represented here is obscure. Accordingly, perhaps in some measure we are dealing with a “wild” text of the Bible. We know that such wild textsÑthat is, forms vastly divergent from the “standard” versionsÑexisted for many authors in GrecoRoman antiquity; we have not previously known of such for the Bible. Few wild texts of classical authors survived, mainly because of the concerted textual criticism prosecuted by ancient scholars. A case in point: at the fabled library in Alexandria, Egypt, literary critics famed in their own day worked to uncover the true text of Homer, the closest thing the Greeks had to a Bible. They pored over all the variants and allowed inferior and wild copies to perish by neglect. They simply did not copy them. Yet even wild texts might preserve a true reading here and there. In that vein, it is instructive to observe that 4Q158 adds to the familiar text of Genesis 32:25 the phrase “He held him tight.” This addition also appears in an early translation of the Bible into Aramaic known as Targum Neofti. Targum Neofiti has survived only in an early medieval copy, but many of its traditions date centuries earlier. The fact that Neofiti agrees with our text in adding to Genesis suggests that this reading is not merely an explication unique to our author. It may originally have been part of the biblical text.
Readers should note that Emanuel Tov and other scholars have suggested that 4Q365 (text 71) is another copy of the present writing. If so, then the two would, of course, not be separate examples of the rewritten Bible phenomenon. They would simply be two copies of the same book. This theory is difficult to verify because the two copies do not overlap.
A combination of Genesis 32:24-32 and Exodus 4:27-28, with extrabiblical additions. The writer adds to Genesis 32:30, reporting the exact wording of the blessing Jacob received from his divine visitant. The writer also transforms what Genesis 32:32 reports as a tradition -Ñ one does not eat a certain portion of the thigh muscle into a direct command from God. Lines 16-18 constitute an addition to Exodus 4:28, but the point is unclear.
Frags. 1-2 [J]ac[ob] was left there [a]lone; and [a man] wrestled [with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; 4and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint] as he wrestled with him. [Still,] he held him tight; then the man said, [“Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go,] 5[unless you bless] me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he replied, [“Jacob.” Then the man said,”You shall no longer be calledJacob, but Israel, for you have striven] 6[with God and] humans, and have prevailed.”J[a]cob then asked him,”Please [te]ll me [your name.”] 7But the man said,”Why is it that you ask my name?” And he bless]ed him [there], saying,”May the LO[RD] make you fruitful, [and multiply] you [ . . . May He grant you] 3[know]1edge and insight. May he preserve you from all wrongdoing, and [ . . . ] Suntil this day and forever more [ . . . ]” ¡Then the man went on his way, haviing blessed Jacob there.
Subsequently [Jacob] ca[lled the place Penuel, saying,”I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”] The sun rose upon him as he passed Penue[l, limping because of his hip. And the LORD appeared to Jacob] on that day, and said, “You shall not eat [the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket.” Therefore the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle] 3that is on the hip socket to t[his day, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.]
[The LORD said] 4to Aaron, “Go [into the wilderness] to meet [Moses.” So he went, meeting him at the mountain of God, and kissed him. Moses told Aaron all] the LORD’S words with which He had sent him, and all [the signs with which He had charged him . . . Moses told Aaron,] 6″The LORD [has spoken] to me, saying, ‘When you have brought the [people] out [of Egypt . . . ‘] 7to go as slaves, and consider, they number thir[ty . . . ] the LORD,
This portion is a variation of Exodus 24:4-6. The second half of Exodus 3:12 apparently occupies 11. 1-2. The focus of the extrabiblical addition in 11. 6-8 is God’s covenant with the patriarchs.
Frag. 4 1[ . . . “When you have brought 2the people out of Egypt, you are to worsh[ip Me on this mountain.” . . . So Moses built an altar at the foot ofthe mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding] 3to the number of the twelve tribes [of Israel . . . ] 4Then he offered a burnt offering upon the alta[r . . . Moses took half of the blood and put it] in basins, and hal[f of the] blood he dashed against the [altar . . . And God said to Moses, “. . . ] 6that I revealed to Abraham and to Isaac. [and to Jacob . . . the covenant that I made] 7with them to b[e] their God, both theirs and the [pe]ople’s [ . . . ] [for]ever . . .
This portion contains Exodus 20:19-21, but not in the form familiar to most readers of the Bible. Instead, the text presents a much expanded version of these verse previously known to scholars from the Samaritan Pentateuch. Most of the expansions come from Deuteronomy.
Frag. 6 [like us, and live? Approach and hear everything that the LORD our God says. Then you can tell us everything the LORD our God says] 2[to you, and we will listen and obey. But do n]ot let [God] speak to u[s, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come ouly to test you] 3[and t]o put the fear of [Him upon you so that you do not sin.” Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where] 4God was.
NOTE: The scribe first wrote “Jacob ‘then erased it. Presumably he erased because he meant to write “Isaac.” He forgot to complete his correction, and did not write over his erasure. I have filled out the portion accordingly.
And the LORD [spoke] to Moses, s[aying,”I have heard this people’s words, which they have spoken to you; they are right in all that they have spoken. If only] Sthey had such a mind as this, to fear [Me and to keep all My commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children forever! Now, as you have heard] 6My words, sa[y] to them, [‘I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone] 7who does not heed the words [that the prophet shall speak in My name, I Myself will hold accountable.
But any prophet who presumes to speak in My name a word that I have not commanded] 3him [to] speak, or who shall sp[eak in the name of other godsÑthat prophet shall die. Perhaps you wil1 say to yourself,”How can we recognize a word that the LORD has not spoken?”] 9If a [propheg speaks [in the name of the LORD, but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a not a word that the LORD has spoken. The prophet has spoken presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.”‘]
This portion combines Exodus 20:12-17, Deuteronomy 5:30-31, Exodus 20:22-26, and Exodus 21:1-10, with small extrabiblical additions. The first half 1. 5 is such an addition.
Frags. 7-8 1(Honor) your [father] and your mother, [so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is about to give you. You shall not murder. You shal1 not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear] 2false witness [agains] your [neighbor]. You shall not covet [your] nei[ghbor’s] wife, [male or female slave, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor]. 3And the LORD said to Moses,”Go say to them, ‘Return to [your tents.’ But you, stand here by Me, and I will tell you all the commandments, the statutes] 4and the ordinances that you shall teach them, so that they may do them in the land that [I am about to give them as a possession.” . . . ]
5 So the people returned to their individual tents, but Moses remained before [the LORD, who said to him “Thus shal1 you say to the Israelites,] 6’You have seen for yourselves that I spoke with you from heaven. You are not to mak[e gods of silver alongside Me, nor make for yourselves gods of gold. You need make for Me only an altar of earth, and sacrifice] on it your burnt offerings and offerings of well-being, your sheep [and oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. But if 8you make for Me [an altar of stone], do not build it of hewn stones; for by [using] a chisel [upon it you profane it. You are not to go up by steps to My altar, lest your nakedness be exposed] on it.
This portion contains Exodus 21:32-22:13, with a few very minor deviations from the familiar biblical text.
Frags. 10-12 thir[ty shekels] of sil[ver, and the ox must be stoned. If someone leaves a pit open, or digs a pit and fails to cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner] 7of the pit must make resti[tution by payment to its owner, while keeping the dead animal. If someone’s ox hurt, the ox of another, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide] 3[the price [the dead animal they shall] also [divide]. But if it was kno[wn] th[at the ox was accustomed] to gore ipreviously, yet its owner has failed to restrain it, the owner must restore] 4[ox for ox, but keep the dead animal.]
When someone steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or s[ells it, the thief shal1 pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep]. [If the thief is found breaking in,] and is beaten to death, no bloodguilt is incurred; but if it happens after sunrise, bloodguilt is incurred. [The thief must make restoration; if he cannot, he shall be sold for the theft. Should] 6[the animal, whether ox] or donkey or sheep, be found alive in the thief’s possession, the thief shal1 pay double. When someone allows [a field or vineyard] to be grazed over, [or lets livestock loose in someone else’s field,] 7[he must make restitution from his own field, depending] on its produce. If he allowed the whole field to be grazed over, he must [repay] from the choicest of his own field or vineyard.
[If a fire breaks out and catches in thorns,] 8[so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is burned up,] the one who started the fire shall make full restitution. When someone delivers to [a neighbor money or goods for safekeeping, and they are stolen from the neighbor’s house, then the thief must pay double when caught.] 9[If the thief is never caught, then] they shall bring [the ow]ner of the house before God, to determine whether or not the owner had laid hands on [the neighbor’s] good[s. In any case of disputed ownership involving ox, donkey, sheep,] [clothing, or any other loss,] wherein one party says, “This is mine,” the case shall come before the LORD. [Whomever God condemns shall pay double to the other.] [When someone delivers to another a donkey3] ox, sheep, or any other animal for safekeeping, [and it dies or is injured or is carried off, but no one sees it, an oath before the LORD shall decide] 2[between the two of them whether one has stolen] the property of the [oth]er. The owner must accept the oath, and no rest[itution] shal1 [be made. But if I it was stolen, [restitution is to be made to its owner. If it was torn by animals,] 3[1et it be brought as evidence; restitution shall not be made for the remains.] If some[one] borrows an animal [from] another [and it is injured or dies,] the owner [not being present, full restitution shall be made . . . ]
The numbering of lines for this portion in DJD 5 does not accord with the lines of the actual manuscript. The numbers are corrected here.
This is an extrabiblical addition. The precise import is no longer detectable, but God is speaking in the first person, presumably to Abraham (cf. Gen. 15) or Jacob. The setting seems to be prior to the descent of Israel into Egypt.
Frag. 14 2[all the fl]esh and all the spirits 3[ . . . ] as a blessing for the land 4[ . . . ] the peoples [ . . . ] this; in the land of Egypt shall be desolation [ . . . ] I shall create in [ . . . ] [I shall rescue them from] the yoke of Egypt’s power, and redeem them 6from their control. I shall make them My people forever [and ever . . . I shall bring them forth] from Egypt. The seed of 7your children I [shall settle in the] land safely for[ever . . . but Egypt shall I hurl into] the heart of the sea, into the fasts 8of the deep~ [ . . . ] where they shall dwell [ . . . ] [bo]rders [ . . . ]