I am studying 1QS (known popularly as “The Community Rule”), so I decided I would post my notes here for anyone who may be interested. 

1QS
1QS

The “community” of 1QS is the Yahud, or the Unity (היחד).

There is a figure known as the Teacher, who is depicted as the authoritative interpreter of Moses and the prophets, who teaches the community how to live before God. To live correctly is to love what God loves and to hate what God hates, including wicked people known as “Sons of Darkness” ( בני חושך).

Those who love what God loves enter into a “Covenant of Grace” (בברית חסד, 1:8). Those who enter this Covenant may join the “counsel of God” (בעצת אל), which allows them to live according to God’s Law. According to 1:19-20 there seems to be an initiation ritual with priest and Levites present who bless God while the one being initiated affirm their blessing (saying, “Amen, Amen!”, אמן אמן). Those who are in the Covenant are called, “Sons of Light” (בני אור).

This group held all things in common. Those who entered the community had to share their possessions with the Yahud. This was the beginning of strict adherence to the rules of the Yahud. Obedience was demanded so that no one would abandon God during the “rule/dominion of Belial” (בממשלת בליעל, 1:18).

When the newly initiated enter the Covenant, the Priests declare God’s compassionate-hesed to Israel” (חסדי רחמים על ישראל, 1:22) and then cite the “iniquities of the children of Israel” (עוונות בני ישראל, 1:23) that were committed under the “dominion of Belial”. It is interesting to note that this sect seems to have view of themselves as a remnant of Israel and those who are not part of this remnant are under the dominion of Belial. There is a cry of repentance and confession present in 1:25ff. that accompanies entrance into the community. After repentance the initiated person must aim to live perfectly in accordance with the Law as interpreted by the Teacher.

There is no compassion for those outside the community. In fact, the “Levites” curse those who are of the “lot of Belial” (גורל בליעל, 2:5) wishing, “Be cursed because of all your guilty wickedness! May [God] deliver you up for torture at the hands of vengeful Avengers (נוקמי נקם, 2:6)! May [God] visit you with destruction by the hand of all Wreakers of Revenge! Be cursed without mercy because of (4Q256) the darkness of your deeds! Be damned in the shadowy place of everlasting fire (באפלת אש עולמים, 2:8)! May God not heed when you call on him, nor pardon you by blotting out your sin! May [God] raise his angry face toward you for vengeance! May there be no “Peace” for you in the mouth of those who hold fast to the Fathers!”[1] The initiated must agree to this with “Amen, Amen!”

Curses are placed on those who enter the Covenant, but who do not maintain their place within it. The person who fails to remain obedient receives this curse: “All the curses of the Covenant shall cling to him and God will set him apart for evil. He shall be cut off from the midst of all he Sons of Light, and because he has turned aside from God on account of his idols and his stumbling-block of sin, his lot shall be among those who are cursed forever.”[2]

This ritual occurs “year by year” (שנה בשנה, 2:19). When it begins the Priests enter first, then the Levites, then the people in grounds of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens (indicating that this document was likely written in anticipation of the day when the Yahud would be a larger group than it seems was a reality at any point). This is in order to preserve the social hierarchy within the group.

Some elements of 1QS parallel the language of early Christianity. There is a Covenant that is characterized by grace. Those who enter this Covenant are “Sons/Children of God”. Those who are not in the Covenant are under the power of the evil being, Belial in 1QS and Satan in most Christian writings (but Belial is mentioned). There appears to be a sense in which one can be part of Israel and then another sense in which there is a truer manifestation of Israel.

There are elements of 1QS that stand in contrast to early Christianity. One can juxtaposes the curses placed on those outside the Covenant with Paul’s words in Romans 9:1ff. Those Paul could speak of people being accursed, it doesn’t seem that he wanted this to happen and he does not command anyone to act this way toward outsiders. Likewise, while there has been much discussion over whether Judaism of Paul’s day was “legalistic”, and while scholarship has shifted from this language due to the work of E.P. Sanders and others like him, this doesn’t mean that we should dismiss the reality that there were some Jewish sects who maintained very strict interpretations of the Law. It seems as if expulsion from the Yahud was always a possibility, and therefore eternal punishment.


[1] Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Revised Edition (2004), 99-100.

[2] Ibid.

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