The Words of Moses

The authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls found the Bible a limitless source of wisdom ancl instruction, but on occasion they found it necessary to rewrite portions of it to enhance the message they found in it or wanted to find in it. Sometimes biblical stories were rewritten such as text 2, Tales of the Patriarchs probably to increase their entertainment value. Other portions, such as text 131, the Temple Scroll, represent rewritten and expanded legal material with controversal or new laws added, highlighted, or explained.

The text here translated, The Words of Moses, follows a similar plan. Although fragmentary (and reconstructed with remarkable acumen bye. T. Milik’, the scroll apparently was a rewriting of parts of Moses last farewell as given in the book of Deuteronomy. Since most of the composition has perished we can only guess what purpose lay behind its writing. The parts that remain emphasize the dangers of apostasy and the judgment that inevitably followsa theme quuite in keeping with the original book.

The introductory passage recalls Deuteronomy 1:3.

Col. 1 I[God called] to Moses [on the fortieth] year after the [chil”dren of] Israe1 left [the land Of 1 Egypt, in the eleventh month, 20n the first day of the month, saying, [Convene] the entire nation and go up to [ . . . ] and stand there, you 3and Eleazar [son of 1 Aaron. Ex[plain to the family] heads, t.o the Levites, and all the [priests] and command the children of 4Israel the words of the L:aw that I have commanded [you] on Mount Sinai to command them in their hearing.

This passage recalls Deuteronomy 4:25-28 except that the author adds to the prediction of idolatry a further one concerning breaking the laws of the festival calendar a topic much on the minds of the Yahad and earlier groups such as the circles that produced Jubilees.

Explain thoroughly everything that I [demand] of them and [call ars witnesses against] them Heaven an’d [Earth, for] 6what I command [them I will not be to their liking, or to their descendants’ liking, tall] the days that tlhey “ive on the] land. Indeed 7I declare to you that they will abandon Me [and choose to follow the idols of the] Gentiles [and their] abominations and [their filthy] deeds, [and they will worship] the 8false gods, which will become a trap [and] snare, and they will violate [every sacred assembly] and cove nant JSabbath [and the festivals!] the very ones I am commanding them today to observe.

A paraphrase of Deuteronomy 28:15.

[They will suffer a] great [defeat] within the very land [that they] are about to cross l¡the Jordan to possess. And so it will be, that all the curses wiLI come upon them and catch them until they perish and until llthey are [destroyed]and they will know [that] a just judgment has been [passed] on them.

In Deuteronomy 31:7 it is stated only that Moses summonedJoshua. The addition here of Eleazar the priest as a co-ruler of Israel is characteristic of the Dead Sea sect.

So Moses called Eleazar son of 12[Aaron] end Joshua [son of Nun and said to] them, Repeat [all the words of the Law up to] the very end [ . . . ]

Here the author combines the gist of Deuteronomy 27:9-19 with Deuteronomy 6:10-11.
Col. 2

Israel and hear! [This very] day [you become a] people belonging to the Lord [your God], so you should [observe my regulations] and my testimonies [and] my [commandments that] 2[I am] commanding you [to]day, [doing them just] as [you] are about to cross the [Jordan], and [I shall give] you 31arge and [beautiful] cities and houses full of every [good thing, vineyards and olive trees] that [you did not plant and cis]terns [that you] did not 4dig; and you will eat and be satisfied. [Be careful] lest your heart grow proud and you [forget what] I [command you] today; 5[for] It is [your] life and length of your days.

Here the author combines themes and expressionsfrom Deuteronomy 1:9-18 and 11:17.

[So] Moses [called] and [said to the children ofl Israel, It is now forty 6[years] since we [came out ofl the land of [Egypt. This very] day [the Lord] our God [has expressed these words] from his mouth: 7[all his] statutes and all his (MS: statutes). How [shall I bear alone] your trouble [and your burdens and your quarreling]? So it shall be, 8[when I finish giving] the covenant and commanding ” [thej wav [that you]” should walk in, [appoirlt for yourself wise men who] shouId explain 9[to you and”to your children] all [these] words of the [Law]. Be [very careful] of yourselves [to do them 1esq his a.nger burn and his wrath ignite against you, and He closes the heavens above from raining [upon you], and the [waters below the earth] from giving you [produce].

The joining of the last few fragments is too conjectural for translation.

Moses [spoke again] to the children of Israel, These are [the commandments that God commanded] to obey . . . ”

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