Sabbath Keeping In Qumran (dr. Eli Lizorkin-eyzenberg, Eteacher Biblical Language Academy)


One of the most interesting and intriguing finds among the materials discovered in what appears to be an inter-Jewish library, preserved by the Qumran Community, is the Damascus Document. This document is also known as the Cairo Document, since it was discovered in the ruins of an ancient synagogue in Cairo fifty years prior to its discovery in Qumran.[1] The Document sheds a great amount of light on the nature of this New Covenant Community, in comparison to many other Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) findings. It deals with the community’s identity, the laws and rules of everyday life for its members, as well as with the nature of their movement of protest against the religious unfaithfulness that was taking place in Jerusalem.

This brief study sets out to survey Qumran community’ Sabbath-keeping practice as it is described in the Damascus Document (CD) and argues that some historic information preserved therein is indispensable to understanding some of the Gospel’s controversies over the issue of the Sabbath keeping. While the present author engages in analysis of the texts, in this article he seeks to get a firm grasp on overall arguments and types of legislation present in the document, hence this article, especially in its second section, will be presented in a form of a survey.

© By Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Ph.D.

To receive more information about learning Biblical Languages with Hebrew University of Jerusalem/eTeacher Biblical program online at affordable cost, please, click here.


Genre and Structure

The Damascus Document is a constitutional, halakhic document that sets forth the norms for the covenant community. According to Martinéz and Barrera, the work is divided into two parts: 1) the exhortation and 2) the body of laws. Many documents in the Ancient Near East follow this structure. The biblical counterpart of this book seems to be Deuteronomy, which has a similar structure.

The exhortation is set in the context of a guardian of the community speaking to the sons of the covenant and encouraging them to stay faithful, telling them that fidelity is rewarded, and apostasy is punished. The second part of the CD is legalistic in character and is divided into five sections: 1) Entry into the covenant (XV, 1-XVI, 16), 2) Internal code of conduct (IX, 1-X, 10a), 3) Ritual (X, 10b-XII, 18), 4) Organization (XII, 19-XIV 19), 5) Penal code (XIV, 20-22).[2]

Both halves of the work are heavily dependent on the Scriptures. In the first half, prophetic oracles are interpreted as predictions of events relating to the life of the community. According to Vermes, the first part (exhortation) is of a well-known genre in both Jewish and Christian Writings (e.g. Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, 4 Maccabees – Hebrews, 1 Peter). The Statutes, on the other hand, with their systematic grouping of laws, prefigure Mishnah, the Tosefta and the Talmud.[3] Nickelsburg argues that the second half presents this community’s special interpretation of the Torah.[4] Bruce adds that “the book… includes homilies in the spirit of the ancient Midrashim and material paralleled in such apocryphal and pseudepigraphic writings as the Book of Jubilees and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs.”[5]


Date and Purpose

The first part of the Damascus Document includes a very important historical reference.  It mentions a period of 390 years (I, 5-6), which seems to be reckoned from the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BCE. This puts the Qumran community at the beginning of the second century BCE. On the other hand in I, 10 the arrival of the Teacher of Righteousness appears 20 years after the “root of the plant.” This is a symbolic way to refer to 175 – 152 BCE, when there was a break in the legitimate priestly line and the Maccabean leadership took power with the nomination of Jonathan the Maccabean as the high priest.[6]

Many similarities have been noted between the book of Jubilees and the Damascus Document, and without a doubt, the similarities are real. According to Hempel, CD XVI, 2b-4a rather abruptly introduces the famous explicit reference to the book of Jubilees. The book is referred to as “the book of the divisions of the times into the Jubilees and weeks,”[7] a title which is remarkably similar to a phrase used in the prologue of the Jubilees itself, as has often been pointed out.[8] However, in spite of all the similarities, it is clear that there are many significant philosophical and methodological differences between the two works. What can be safely assumed is that Jubilees was known and read in the community. Hence the dating of the Damascus Document is later than 161-140 BCE, which is the most likely time of composition of the Book of Jubilees. Paleographic analysis suggests a date between 100 and 75 BCE.



The implied author of the Damascus Document is the Teacher of Righteousness. The real author(s) is unknown. It is likely that his followers, probably the co-founders of this new covenant community, heavily edited whatever original text may have been produced by him or, perhaps, even authored the entire composition. There are, as is often the case with ancient writings, multiple layers of editing present in this work. According to Davies, although a Judean setting for the composition of the Admonition section has been hitherto taken for granted, nothing specifically contradicts the view that it was composed in the Diaspora, especially since some of the Laws seem to presuppose that setting.[9]


Major themes


Everything within the Damascus Document is permeated by the idea of covenant. The initial call is issued, “Now hearken to me, all who enter the covenant” (CD A II, 2). Its history goes back to Abraham:

“And he (Abraham) transmitted (his way) to Isaac and Jacob; and they observed (them) and were registered as lovers of God and parties of (his) covenant forever” (CD A III, 3-4). When people were critical of the leadership, “They opened their mouth against the statues of God’s covenant” (CD A V, 12).

The mercy of God towards those who are living in repentance and faith is described in terms of covenant mercy: “God recalled the covenant with the first ones, and he raised from Aaron men of discernment and from Israel wise men; and he allowed them to hear” (CD A VI, 2-3). Granting the land to later generations of the Israelites was a direct result of the covenant oath that Israel’s God took with regards to it. This oath is in no way contingent on the strengths of Israel’s armies and the perseverance of its people: “As for what Moses said, Not by your righteousness and your uprightness of heart do you come to dispossess these nations, but rather from His love for your fathers and His keeping of the oath” (CD A VIII, 14-15; CD A VIII, 16-19). The language of covenant transition from the beginning to the present abounds:

“The first ones who entered the covenant became guilty through it; and they were given up to the sword, having departed from God’s covenant … but out of those who held fast to God’s ordinances, who remained of them, God established his covenant with Israel forever” (CD A III, 10-13; CD A IV, 1-7).



One of the major themes of the CD is the idea that Israel has always consisted of the faithful remnant and the rest of the people. In CD A I, 5-7 we read that the remnant is based not on the righteousness belonging to them, but on the covenant memory of Israel’s God: “For because of their treason that they forsook Him, He hid His face from Israel and from His sanctuary and delivered them unto the sword. But when He remembered the covenant of the forefathers He left a remnant.”[10] This covenant community believed that YHWH had renewed His covenant with them. They were the hope of tomorrow, the seed of faith that remained faithful to the very words of their covenant God. In CD A II, 17b-19 we read: “… in all of them He raised for Himself men called by name, in order to leave a remnant to the earth and to fill the face of the world with their children.” In protest against the unholy practices that permeated the priestly community in Jerusalem, this new covenant community withdrew their holy presence from Jerusalem and Judea and left for Damascus where a large Jewish community was also residing.


Strict observance

It is clear that the members of this new covenant community felt there was a significant liberalization occurring among others. The covenanters seem to have critiqued the lack of full obedience or the “pick and choose” attitude of the Jewish religious establishment. It was a group united not by theological distinction, but by the level of subscription and implementation. They responded by calling themselves and others “to do according to the precise meaning of the Torah” (CD A IV, 7-10) and “to offer up the holy things in accordance to their detailed requirements” (CD A VI, 19-21). Therefore, attaining a membership status was not easy:

“Whoever joins his congregation, let him examine him with regards to his work and his intelligence, his strength and might, and his wealth … let no one of the sons of the camp dare to bring a man into the congregation except by the word of the examiner of the camp” (CD A XIII, 11-13).



The practice of informing the authorities of some violation or legal code irregularity to settle a personal score was common. Hence the brothers of the new covenant spelled out the rules of engagement: “Any man who destroys a man among men by the statues of the Gentiles is to be put to death” (CD A IX, 1). Moreover, the Damascus Document forbids traveling in such a way that one’s business pursuits would take them by the Gentile towns where they may be tempted in various ways to compromise the requirements of the Torah, as well as to be in close proximity to Gentiles. It states succinctly: “Let no man rest in a place near Gentiles on the Sabbath” (CD A XI, 14-15). For this reason Ethiopian Jews, whose Sabbath code is the strictest of all (Jubilees and Te’ezaza Sanbat are obeyed in detail) never had merchants as part of their permanent community, as did the rest of Jewish communities.



Judgment is a just retribution for violating the covenant. Judgment in the Damascus Document is treated much more in the context of the apostate Israel. Emotionally charged descriptions are employed, such as “surrendering to the avenging sword of the covenant’s vengeance” (CD A I, 17) and “the anger of God was kindled against their congregation so as to lay waste their entire multitude and (make) their works as impurity before Him” (CD A I, 21-II, 1). Judgment is the direct result of their own disobedience, “for they had done their own will and had not kept the ordinances of their Maker, until His wrath was kindled against them” (CD A II, 21).[11] Final judgment on the apostate Israel and the Gentile enemies will be consummated at the coming of the Messiah of Aaron and Israel: “Those who remain will be handed to the sword when the Messiah of Aaron and Israel comes” (CD B XIX, 10-11).

Having in brief considered major themes of the book, let us now turn to particular examples of Sabbath treatment by the author.


Major Sabbath Pericopes

Sabbath needs extra measures (X, 14-17a)

According to Döering, the Laws of the Sabbath in CD provide some of the closest parallels between Qumran exegesis and the Oral Law of the Rabbis.[12] Baumgarten states that the Sabbath Rules found in CD (as well as in Jubilees) were not limited just by the Torah injunctions, but also embraced the “shvot” category of legal “fences” designed to enhance the sanctity of the Sabbath (mAbot 1.1).[13] However it is important to note that CD XVI, 2 affirms that in “it (the Law of Moses) everything is specified.” Leviticus 17-22 apparently is the foundational catalogue of transgressions around which all prohibitions are organized, which makes a strong case for the Pentateuch roots of Qumran law.[14] The general principle, according to Bickerman, of taking extra measures[15] to guard against Sabbath-breaking is laid down here in the delineation of when exactly on the sixth day work is to stop.[16] Zeitlin explains the problem with the calendar change as follows:

“[The] Sabbath day does not depend on any calendar. It occurs every seventh day regardless of the lunar or lunar-solar calendars. The answer is that in a solar calendar the day begins with the dawn and lasts until the following dawn; hence, the Sabbath would begin in the morning and last till the following dawn. But in a lunar calendar, the day begins with the preceding evening, i.e. at sunset or when the stars become visible, and lasts until the following evening. The contention of the author of the book of Jubilees … is now understandable. Saturday evening is still Sabbath, but the Sabbath would be over for those who follow the lunar calendar. On the other hand, Friday evening would not yet be Sabbath according to the solar calendar, while to those who followed the lunar calendar it would already be Sabbath.”[17]

Baumgarten, however, agues that according to the CD X, 14-17, the Qumran sect had followed the normal Jewish practice of reckoning the day from sundown to sundown.[18] Jubilees 49:1 also supports this reckoning.[19] VanderKam and Talmon suggest that the main reason why the covenanters left Jerusalem was that after the Maccabees gained control they did not come back to the lunar calendar, which in their view perverted Temple and Israel’s worship as a whole.[20]


Sabbath-keeping in speech (X, 17b-19)

The mind and tongue must be trained to abide by the Sabbath laws just like the rest of the body. A series of prohibitions relating to it are displayed here: “And on the day of the Sabbath no man shall utter a word of folly. And surely none shall demand any debt of his neighbor. None shall judge on matters of property, and gain. None shall speak on matters of work and labor to be done on the following morning.” The covenant-keeping practiced by the Qumran community is to be thorough, whole hearted and encompassing not only deeds, but also thoughts and words.


Sabbath-keeping in walking (X, 20-21)

One cannot wander too far. The 1000 cubits was the border limit around the cities of refuge, the ground of which was given as a permanent loan to the Levites (Num. 35:4-5): “No man shall walk in the field to do the work of his affairs on the day of the Sabbath. None shall walk outside his city more than a thousand cubits.” Walking far presupposes either business involvement or investment of physical strength.  None of these were compatible with the Sabbath-keeping practices of the Qumran community.


Sabbath-keeping in eating and drinking (X, 22-XI, 1)

Even such life sustaining activities like eating and drinking are regulated by the Sabbath laws. A human being as a creation and a Jew as a covenant partner must be governed by the Torah in all spheres of life: “No man shall eat on the day of the Sabbath but of that, which is prepared or perishing in the field. None shall eat or drink but from that which was in the camp. But if he was on the way and went down to wash he may drink where he stands, but he shall not draw into any vessel.”[21] This last formulation is similar to the one with regards to the saving of human life in XI, 16-17a as we will see later.  There also one can engage in the act of saving but only with bare hands, not with anything man-made.


Sabbath-keeping in Gentile association (XI, 2-5a)

Not only is it unethical to use a non-Israelite’s lack of knowledge and true faith for the sake of personal righteousness: “No man shall send the son of the stranger to do his affairs on the day of the Sabbath,” it is also clear that the holiness of a covenanter will be compromised if contact with Gentile is present: “No man shall put on garments that are filthy or were brought by a Gentile unless they were washed in water or rubbed off with frankincense.” It is in this context that the prohibition “No man shall mingle of his own will on the Sabbath” is issued. Hempel states that whatever the exact scenario envisaged here, it is clear that these laws warn of danger of defilement through various types of contact with the Gentiles.[22]


Sabbath-keeping in animal rearing (XI, 5b-7a)

These verses have caused a difference in translation. According to Martinéz, the distance one may walk an animal on the Sabbath equals the distance biblically allowed for the human Sabbath perimeter – 1000 cubits.[23] However, Vermes’ translation,[24] as well as Wise, Abegg and Cook’s, expands the Sabbath distance if walking after the animal to 2000 cubits: “No man shall walk more than two thousand cubits after a beast to pasture it outside his town.”[25] Especially on the Sabbath, violence against the animal is forbidden: “None shall lift his hand to beat it with his fist.” Not even force against an unruly animal can be used on the Sabbath: “If it be stubborn he shall not remove it out of his house.” The Scriptures afford the right for Sabbath rest to animals as well as humans.  In a sense, a human is being called to come back to Eden when he was the manager of all creation, including the inhabitants of the animal kingdom (Ex. 20:10). His job was to protect and direct the animals. Striking animals is a post-fall activity, which needs to be broken by the circle of the weekly Sabbath.


Sabbath-keeping in carrying things (XI, 7b-11a)

The CD contains no sign of making rules to avoid the commandments, as in later arrangements. Rather, the same principle of guarding the Sabbath is applied:


“No man shall carry anything from the house to the outside or from the outside into the house and if he be in the gate he shall not carry out anything of it or bring in anything into it. None shall open the cover of a vessel that is pasted on the Sabbath. No man shall carry on him spices to go out and come in on the Sabbath. None shall move in the house on the day of the Sabbath rock or earth.”


According to Döering, here the writer/s is/are almost certainly relying on Jeremiah 17:22a: “Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy …”[26]


Sabbath-keeping at birth of animal or human (XI, 11b-14a)

Members of the New Covenant community were not allowed to assist their animals in birth on the Sabbath. This was done not out of lack of concern for the animal’s well-being (cruelty to animals), but out of concern for working to increase one’s own wealth on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath laws apply to animal and human life alike, albeit in different ways: “No nurse shall bear the suckling child to go out and to come in on the Sabbath … No man shall deliver an animal on the day of the Sabbath.”


One example of what made this Jewish movement different from the far more “liberal” Pharisees was the following prohibition: “If it falls into a pit or ditch, he shall not raise it on the Sabbath.” It maybe interesting to note that, contrary to the popular opinion, Jesus’ point in arguing with Pharisees over healing on the Sabbath was not to call them to repentance from legalism (and bad hermeneutical methods), but rather to apply their already developed good hermeneutical methods consistently:


Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus (Matt. 12:9-14).


At least in this case the sin of the Pharisees is not found in their commitment to obey the letter of the Torah (so-called legalism), but in the halakhic inconsistency in their Torah-observance (lifting up an animal from a ditch on the Sabbath, but having a difficulty with seeing how a human can be legitimately healed on the Sabbath by Jesus). This criticism of Jesus in the light of Damascus Document must adjust our view of Pharisaic movements within Judaisms of the first century. Pharisees of the Gospels are not the ultra-conservatives seeking to oppose Jesus’ ministry. They are in fact a more progressive Jewish movement on the map of various Judaisms, especially as compared to the Qumranites (and, probably, Essenes), and as such the Gospels once again prove to be invaluable resource in the area of Jewish Studies in the Late Second Temple Period.


Sabbath-keeping in business and commerce (XI, 14b-15)

The Promised Land is the land of covenant promise characterized chiefly by the fullness of life (Ex. 3:8; Deut. 1:22-25; Is. 53:8). To the author/s of Damascus Document being outside of the covenant was similar to death itself. Any contact with death is defiling, hence “No man shall rest in a place near to the Gentiles on the day of the Sabbath.” However, an important clarification is given as to the reason for the prohibition: “No man shall profane the Sabbath for the sake of wealth and gain.”[27] Gentiles had no regard for the Sabbath. Doing business in a Gentile neighborhood or region can be detrimental for the covenant fidelity of a true Israelite.


Sabbath-keeping in saving human life (XI, 16-17a)

This is, perhaps, the most fascinating passage in the entire work, and over the years it has sparked the most controversy over its interpretation.  Due to textual difficulties, the various translations are radically different.  The modern reader is at first left in doubt whether the Qumran community was valuing human life above the Sabbath or vice versa.  Until Lutz Döering’s research, there were only three major views: 1) Life-saving is prohibited with utensils on the Sabbath, 2) Life-saving is permitted with utensils on the Sabbath, 3) The laws of the Sabbath are overruled in order to save a human life (piqquuah nefesh), as Schiffman argued. However, Döering suggested another possible view which is strongly supported by 4Q265, a CD fragment from cave 4 of the DSS (4Q265 7i 6-7 reads, “But if it is a man who has fallen into the water on the Sabbath day, his garment should be thrown to him to lift him out with it. No-one should carry a vessel (…) Sabbath.”[28]).[29] In this view the Qumran community sought to balance the saving of life with the Sabbath regulations. Rightly or wrongly it has sought to combine in its halakhic outworking the readings that were equally pro-human and pro-Sabbath. In this way these texts indicate that Jesus’ discussions with the Pharisees (as mentioned earlier) are not unique, but represent an ongoing inter-Jewish discussion of Torah-observance that would be acceptable to Israel’s God.


Sabbath-keeping in worship (XI, 17b-18a)

The author/s of Damascus Document polemicizes against some of the wrong interpretations and hence practices of the current stewards of the Jerusalem Temple: “No man shall bring anything on the altar on the Sabbath, save the burnt-offering of the Sabbath, for so it is written, ‘Save your Sabbaths.’” Although the biblical quotation given here is not precise, it is clear that the author of CD refers to the verses from Lev. 23:37-39. The passage is found in the middle of the section which deals with Succoth. Two interpretations were made with regards to this passage. First, the phrase “Save your Sabbaths/apart from your Sabbaths” refers to the sacrifices required on the Sabbath; and second, that the phrase under consideration refers to the Sabbath itself. The author of CD chooses the second interpretation. He declares that one must not offer festival sacrifices, including the sacrifices of intermediary festival days, on the Sabbath Day.



By the time the Damascus Document was written it was clear that the Biblical Sabbath commandments alone were not specific enough and were in need of clarification (X, 14-17a). The obedience desired was not just superficial and external, but rather heartfelt and personal, not overlooking issues of social justice in the process and seeking to implement full obedience to the Torah (X, 17b-19). While it is true that heartfelt obedience risked to make Sabbath regulations more binding that they were suppose to be, it is also true that Qumran community sought to achieve not simply an outward obedience to these commandments, but to balance it with the proper motivation in the heart of the worshiper  (XI, 2-3). In addition the practices designed to “get around” God’s prohibitions should have been avoided (XI, 7b-11a). (It is highly likely that Erub was already either implemented by some or perhaps was in some early stage of its invention).[30] Furthermore, Sabbath obedience in Qumran was more valued than the life of any living being other than man (XI, 16-17a). This and other sections shed light on the nature of Jesus’ polemic with the Pharisees. His critique of the opposing Pharisees (Matt.12:9-14) in the light of CD, had to do not with obeying the letter of the Law, but rather not applying correct interpretive principles consistently (see section in Sabbath-Keeping at birth of animal or human (XI, 11b-14a)). Finally, Sabbath keeping was more important than Temple worship (XI, 17b-18a).


Make sure to leave me your email so that I can update you when I add new material to the site (you can do that in the right upper corner) and, email a link to this blog to your friends and family that may also be interested in the Jewish background of all things connected to the Jewish and Christian histories

To receive more information about learning Biblical Languages with Hebrew University of Jerusalem/eTeacher Biblical program online at affordable cost, please, click here.

© By Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Ph.D.

To sign up for weekly posts by Dr. Eli, please, click here. It is recommend by Dr. Eli that you read everything from the begining in his study of John. You can do so by clicking here “Samaritan-Jewish Commentary”.


[1] See Martinéz, F. G. and J. T. Barrera. 1993. The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Writings, Beliefs and Practices. Translated by W. G. E. Watson. Leiden: Brill, 52.

[2] Ibid.

[3] See Vermes, G. 1999. An Introduction to the Complete Dead Sea Scrolls. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 36.

[4] See Nickelsburg, G. 1981. Jewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah: A Historical and Literary Introduction. Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 124.

[5] See Bruce, F. F. and M. H. Shulewitz. 1971. Book of Covenant of Damascus. In Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 5.Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1246-1250.

[6] Ibid.

[7] All citations here and throughout, unless otherwise noted, are taken from The Dead Sea Scrolls: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Texts with English Translations, Volume 2, Damascus Document, War Scroll and Related Documents, ed. James Charlesworth (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995).

[8] See Hempel, C. 1998. The Laws of the Damascus Document: Sources, Tradition and Redaction. Leiden: Brill, 86.

[9] See Davies, P. R. 1983. The Damascus Document: An Interpretation of the Damascus Document, JSOTSup 25. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 203.

[10] In this section (Remnant) both translations are taken from Solomon Schechter’s Fragments of a Zadokite Work: Documents of Jewish Sectaries, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: University Press, 1910).


[11] See also CD A V, 16; VIII, 1-3 and 16-19; CD B XIX, 17; CD B XX, 8.

[12] See Döering, L. 1997. New Aspects from Qumran Sabbath Law from Cave 4 fragments. In Legal Texts and Legal Issues. Proceedings of the Second Meeting of the International Organization for Qumran Studies, Cambridge, 1995. Edited by M. J. Bernstein, F. García Martinéz and J. Kampen, STDJ 23. Leiden: Brill, 251-274.

[13] See Baumgarten, J. 1999. The Laws of the Damascus Document: Between the Bible and Mishnah. In The Damascus Document A Centennial of Discovery. Proceedings of the Third International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, 1998. Editted by J.  Baumgarten, E. Chazon and A. Pinnick. Leiden: Brill, 23.

[14] Ibid., 25.

[15] The cessation of work when the entire diameter of the sun is still above the horizon is closely comparable to the rabbinical practice of adding to the Sabbath. See L. Ginsberg’s comments ad locum (see Charlesworth, Dead Sea Scrolls, 47).

[16] See Bickerman, E. 1979. The God of Maccabees: Studies on the Meaning and Origin of the Maccabean Revolt. Translated by H. R. Moehring. Leiden: Brill, 47.

[17] See Zeitlin, S. 1952, Zadokite Fragments: Facsimile of the Manuscripts in the Cairo Genizah Collection in the Possession of the University Library, Cambridge, England. Philadelphia: The Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, 17.

[18] See Baumgarten, J. 1977. Studies in Qumran Law. Leiden: Brill, 124.

[19] Ibid., 126.

[20] See Talmon, S. 1989. The Calendar of the Covenanter in Judean Desert. In The World of Qumran From Within. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 148;andVanderKam, J. II Maccabees 6, 7a and Calendrical Change in Jerusalem. JSJ 12 (1981): 54. 

[21] The requirement that the food for the Sabbath be prepared, also found in Jub. 2:29, is based on the rule for the manna in Ex. 16:5. Drawing water is also prohibited in Jub. 2:29 and 50:8 (see Charlesworth, Dead Sea Scrolls, 47).

[22] Hempel, The Laws of the Damascus Document, 80.

[23] See Martinéz, F. G. 1994. Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English. Leiden: Brill, 42.

[24] See Wise, M. and M. Abegg and E. Cook. 1999. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. San Francisco: Harper Publishing House, 68.

[25] See Vermes, G. 1995. The Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Sheffield: Academic Press, 109.

[26] Döering, New Aspects, 258.

[27] Chaim Rabin comments, “The severity of the Sabbath laws in CDC has been commented upon, and has been taken as evidence for Essene origin. In fact, the rulings in Te’ezaza Sanbat and Jubilees are much more rigid; the same applies to the Samaritan Sabbath. Compared with these, CDC is lenient: while it adds nothing new, it closely approaches rabbinical halakhah. In particular, it actually polemicizes against the imposition of the death penalty for Sabbath-breaking (XII:4-6), which is biblical (Num.XV:35), and emphatically enjoined by Jubilees and T.S., and is admitted by M. San.7.4,8; B.T. Yeb.47a. On the whole, the rules in CDC lie in a direct line of development from the earlier, severe practice to that of the Rabbis.” (Qumran Studies [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957], 86).

[28] Martinéz, Dead Sea Scrolls, 72.

[29] Baumgarten thinks that 4Q265 6 confirms that the ban on using an implement/instrument, but permits one to cast a garment to a drowning man; the latter was permissible because, as an article of attire, it was prepared for use on the Sabbath (See Baumgarten, The Laws of Damascus Document, 23). This fragment most likely represents a later development of the Qumranic view. However, it still stops short of saving life at any cost and retains rather severe limitations. It is likely that only the upper garment is in view (baged) here as to avoid nudity. Thus it becomes clear that 4Q265 7 i 6-7 tries to harmonize life-saving and the prohibition of carrying. This passage shows that the Jewish community was engaged in thinking and discussion about preservation of human life way before the Maccabean struggle had begun.  The question was not whether a Jew could work on the Sabbath, but rather what work was permitted for a Jew to do on this sacred day.

[30] A storage place of joint ownership designed to avoid breaking of the command while at the same time allowing use of things that would otherwise be inaccessible given the Sabbath prohibitions.

About the author

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-EyzenbergTo secure your spot in our new course “The Jewish Background of New Testament” - CLICK HERE NOW

You might also be interested in:

Simchat Torah: The Joy Of The New ...

By Julia Blum

Still About Sukkot

By Julia Blum

Join the conversation (5 comments)

Leave a Reply

  1. […] As was customary for Jesus, he didn’t argue with hoi Ioidaioi about the legitimacy of Mosaic Law. After all Mosaic Law is Jesus’ law, both because Jesus was the eternal Logos of God (read here and here) and, therefore, was its original giver. Moreover, because in his humanity he was a Jew, as such he was fully and firmly under the authority of the Law of Moses. Instead of arguing about the legitimacy of the Law, Jesus only argued with hoi Ioudaioi about the interpretation of the Law of Moses and himself accused hoi Ioudaioi of the sin of inconsistency (John 5:23). There was at least another time when Jesus criticized his opponents of the sin of inconsistency when he brought to their mind a reference from a Qumranic Damascus Document, saying that while the Pharisees were right about saving life on the Sabbath, they were wrong about the fact that they thought that healing should not be allowed on this sacred day (Mat.12.9-13 and CD XI 11b-14a). Qumran Jews were not allowed to assist their animals in birth on the Sabbath. This was done not out of lack of concern for the animal’s well-being (cruelty to animals), but out of concern for working to increase one’s own wealth on the Sabbath day. One example of what made this Jewish movement different from the far more liberal Pharisees was the following prohibition: “If it falls into a pit or ditch, he shall not raise it on the Sabbath.” Contrary to the popular opinion Jesus’ point in arguing with Pharisees over healing on the Sabbath was not to call them to repentance from legalism and bad hermeneutical methods, but rather to apply their already developed hermeneutical methods all the way. The sin of Pharisees often seems to be the sin of theological and halakhic inconsistency (read more about it here). […]

  2. DeborahG

    Once again, Dr. Eli, brilliant context! Jesus called them on their hypocrisy and abuse of power, all performed in the name of self righteousness. Once again, he called them to the heart of God, the essence of the law, to Love God and Neighbor. I have always thought of the Pharisees as the “conservatives” and the Saducees as the “liberals.” Now I am envisioning an uberconservative Qumran closed community, but one whose social justice exceeded the Pharisees. Interesting!

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes, I agree it is a common misconception to think of Pharisees as conservatives. Thanks, Deborah.

  3. NGO Pierre

    Your article interests deeply. Thank you so much for writing these articles and updating them. Shalom!

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      You are most welcome! Thank you for your feedback.