OF THE QUMRAN SECT
From the Scroll of the War of the
Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness and from the Scroll of the Manual
of discipline it is clear that these people of the scrolls were convinced
that they were living in the very last days. They expected the day of God's
judgments against the world of the ungodly would come at any moment. They
understood from the writings of the prophets that the purged and purified
among the Jews would be the instruments God would use in the impending final
war which would destroy the wicked and bring in times of blessedness and
Having this conviction they felt that the
rigid lives they led and their endeavours to observe the laws of Moses,
would he counted for righteousness and that they would be among the Sons of
Light in the time of trouble. Further, they felt it was incumbent on them to
he prepared for the war, and in the War Scroll they set out in great detail
the general plan for the conflict. The details of tactics are decided,
together with the weapons and the army organisation. Also there is an
enumeration of the Biblical rules for the conduct of war and their
application to the last decisive war which would exterminate the wicked from
the earth and exalt the Sons of Light.
A careful study of Bible prophecy would
enable us to make a correct assessment of these anticipations. These Dead
Sea Essenes could see plainly enough from the writings of the prophets that
the final conflict between God and the nations is foretold with great
clarity. Where they went wrong was in expecting the event to happen in their
day and in their assumption that it was for them to outline the strategy and
tactics to be carried out and to prepare the fighting equipment.
How close were these Essenes in their
beliefs to what the Bible really teaches? According to the scrolls, it
appears that they held a number of wrong views. The very fact that they
avoided all possible contact with the outside world and led a monastic life
indicates an erroneous outlook The true servants of God cannot discharge
their duty of shining as lights in a dark world [Phil 2v15] if they shut
themselves away as did the Qumran sect. While they were there in rigid
seclusion John the Baptist was preaching repentance, and multitudes were
coming to he baptised.
The Qumrans were expecting two Messiahs,
one priestly and the other kingly. Had they come out and listened to John
the Baptist they would have learnt that the Messiah had already come and was
the Lamb of God, to take away the sin of the world. Had they listened to
Jesus as he preached in the towns and villages of the Holy Land, they would
have learnt that he was the true Messiah promised in the writings of Moses
and the prophets and was of the House of David and appointed by God to be
both priest and king.
John came 'to bear witness to the light,
that all men through him might believe". "That was the true light, which
lighteneth every man that cometh into the world." (John 1v7&9) But the
Qumran monastics had shut themselves away, and while they were bent on
establishing their own righteousness they excluded themselves from the
opportunity to submit themselves to God's righteousness.
Members of the sect believed that all
creatures were divided into the Lot of Light and the Lot of Darkness: that
God Himself created Belial the Angel of Darkness to lead all the forces of
Darkness, and created Michael the Angel of Light to lead the forces of
We can see here the similarity between this
view and that of the Agnostics and the later church doctrine of Satan or the
Devil as a fallen angel, the antagonist of God and the leader of the forces
of evil. It is not clear whether the Qumran sect believed in the immortality
of the soul. It is quite possible they did not, for they speak of the
ultimate destruction of the wicked. and one of their psalms in the
'Thanksgiving Scroll' starts:
'I thank thee, O Lord, because
thou hast put my soul in the bundle of life; thou hast fenced me off from
all the snares of the pit'
(Compare 1 Samuel 25v29)
'For what is man? He is earth, a
cut of bit of clay, and to dust is his return.'
Their Psalm 6 opens:
'I thank thee, O Lord, because
thou hast redeemed my soul from the pit; from the sheol of Abaddon.'
The grounds on which they based their
conviction that there would be the 'battle of the great day of God Almighty'
and their conviction that it would be in their own time are interesting.
We learn from outside writers that at the
time of the births of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ there was a
general expectancy that one would arise out of Judea who would rule the
world. A belief which no doubt sprang from a partial understanding of Daniel
9v24-26. The Qumran sect knew from the prophets that it would be at a time
of great trouble and we can well appreciate that when they saw the Roman
armies advancing to the siege of Jerusalem and spreading over the land, they
felt that surely this was the long foretold 'time of trouble' when God would
intervene on behalf of His great Name, His Land and His people.
One should not judge them hardly in these
premature anticipations. The disciples themselves. knowing that Jesus was
the Christ, the Son of the living God, were shocked beyond measure when he
was taken and crucified. They had been promised they would sit on twelve
thrones reigning over the restored tribes of Israel and they expected that
he was about to redeem Israel and reign as king then and there.
Jesus explained their misunderstanding to
the two disciples on the road to the village of Emmaus. They did not
recognise Jesus and did not know that he had risen from the dead. They were
sad because, they said:
"We trusted that it had been
he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the
third day since there things were done."
Jesus then went on to tell them that they
had only understood some of the Old Testament prophecies. The prophets had
foretold that the Messiah was not only to be the eventual king over the
whole world when the kingdom of God was established, but that he had also to
suffer first as the sacrifice for sin. "And beginning at Moses and all the
prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning
himself" Luke 24v27
The people at Jericho (not far from the
Khirbet Qumran settlement) crowding round Christ, thought that the kingdom
of God would immediately appear. The disciples and the people, just before
the triumphant entry into Jerusalem and like the Qumran sect, felt they were
living in the last times. They believed that God would intervene as in the
past, wrest all power from the Gentiles and "restore again the kingdom to
The Qumran sect, to support their
convictions, quoted passages from the writings of the prophets, which
however refer to the time yet future when Jesus Christ will return from
heaven in great power to overturn the kingdoms of men and set up in their
place the Kingdom of God. In their scroll of 'The War of the Sons of Light
against the Sons of Darkness' the belief is expressed that the day of
victory was near because it would come 'at a time of mighty trouble for the
people to be redeemed by God. In all their troubles there was none like it.'
These words were based on Daniel 12v1:
"And at that time shall
Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy
people: and there shall he a time of trouble such as never was since there
was a nation to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be
delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book."
And also on the words of Jeremiah:
"Alas for that day is great,
so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he
shall be saved out of it." Jeremiah
Jesus did not say that the people of his
day were wrong in expecting the Messiah to establish the kingdom of God but
he did explain that there was to be a delay first. Jesus said:
"A man of noble birth went to
a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return."
Luke 19v12. NIV
The parable goes on to describe the way in
which his servants were to work while waiting for the king to return. There
is no doubt that the story taught that Jesus himself would go away and that
there was to be a delay before his return to establish the kingdom. Luke
introduces the story by saying that Jesus told his followers a parable,
"because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the Kingdom of
God was going to appear at once." Luke 19v11 NIV
The Qumran sect was not wrong in thinking
that the establishment of the kingdom would be at a time of very great
trouble. But, again speaking of the gap in time between his first and second
appearances, Jesus described a long period of desolation for the land of
Israel. Jerusalem he said, would be trodden down by Gentiles. Then at the
time appointed by God, that treading down would end. At the same time there
would be a period of great trouble for the world. In figurative Jesus says:
"And there shall be signs in
the sun and in the moon and in the stars: and upon the earth distress of
nations with perplexity: the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts
failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming
on the earth. For the powers of heaven shall be shaken"
The comfort for the followers of Jesus is
that he immediately said:
"And then shall they see the
Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory"
There are many Old testament prophecies
which also speak of the coming of the Messiah and the fulfilment of God`s
purpose after a long period of desolation for Israel.
BEGINNING OF THE DESOLATION
In the same passage just quoted, Jesus told
his disciples that the long 'down treading' of Jerusalem would begin when
the Roman armies came against the city:
"When you see Jerusalem being
surrounded by armies, you will that its desolation is near"
Following the warning given by Jesus [Luke
21v21] some were able to flee from Judea. The scrolls were hurriedly hidden
away in the caves as the Roman soldiers destroyed the Qumran settlement.
Some fled down to the great rock fortress of Masada and joined with the
Zealots in a last stand against the Romans. The Romans built a great earthen
and stone ramp up the 1,200 ft. high rock and assembled a huge battering
ram. When the Jewish defenders found resistance was hopeless, rather than
the men and women being taken as slaves or worse, the whole number, close on
100,000 men, women and children perished in a mass suicide. A great
expedition excavating the ruins during 1964-5 under the able direction of Dr
Yigael Yadin found some grim relies in the form of skeletons and skulls,
some with hair still attached.
EVIDENCE FOR THE DATE
For Bible students, the greatest prize
found, in addition to more than 1,000 coins, was more scrolls. These scrolls
consisted of fragments of Psalms, Leviticus, Genesis and some apocryphal
books. The importance of the find is this. There are some 'experts' who have
argued that the Dead Sea Scrolls are of a later data. But here is the
conclusive evidence to the contrary. Masada fell to the Romans in AD 73 a
date not to be disputed. So here, in the ruins now excavated, have been
found Biblical documents earlier than AD 73. Among the scroll fragments is
one identical to a scroll found in the Qumran cave.
The finding of this scroll is important,
because for the first time a Dead Sea Scroll has been found outside Qumran
and in a place which was a Zealot stronghold. It seems to indicate that one
of the Qumran Essenes took the scroll with him when he joined in the defence
of Masada. This is supported by the list of area commanders mentioned by
Josephus, one of whom is given as a certain John the Essene.
The main conclusion to be drawn from the
discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is that they confirm that the Scriptures
we hold in our hands today are a faithful translation of the original
manuscripts penned by men divinely inspired to record God's message to
mankind. Our readers may he quite confident that whatever ancient Biblical
documents are found and whatever evidences are turned up by the spade of the
excavator, they will but confirm the integrity of the Bible, the word of
God, upon which we may safely build all our hopes of salvation at the coming
of Christ from heaven and from which we may draw day by day for comfort and
Very soon the Light of the world will he
here and our unshaken confidence in the Bible will be gloriously vindicated.
So we conclude with the noble
words to be found in the Isaiah Scroll:
"All flesh is grass
...... The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
but the word of our God
shall stand for ever."