The Period of Wrath and the Young Lion of Wrath

© 2004 Dr. Barbara Thiering (Oct 16, 2004)(revised April, 2005)

One of the main passages relied on by the consensus case is in the Damascus Document (CD) 1: 5-11. If the dates it gives are taken without reference to other relevant facts, it can be understood to give a 2nd century BC date for the Teacher, although even then there were obvious difficulties. The passage reads:

"In the Period of Wrath (Heb: beqets charon) 390 years for His giving (Heb: letitto) them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, He (God) visited them, and caused to spring up from Israel and from Aaron a Root of Planting to inherit His land and to prosper in the goodness of the earth. And they understood their iniquity and they knew that they were guilty men. But they were like blind men groping for the way for 20 years. And God understood their deeds, that with a perfect heart they sought Him. And He raised up for them a Teacher of Righteousness (Heb: moreh tsedeq) to direct them in the way of His heart."

The phrase "390 years for His giving them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon" was taken to mean "after He gave". From the known date of Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Jerusalem, in 587 BC, it was at first concluded that the Root of Planting had appeared in 197 BC, and the Teacher, 20 years later, in 177 BC. But that was at once seen as impossible. It would place the Teacher even before the appearance of the Seleucids, and everything about him showed that he belonged much later than this. The consensus case was left with the view that the writers must have been approximate only in their calculation from Nebuchadnezzar - as was not impossible- and the Teacher's date, later in the 2nd century BC, would be known if his circumstances fitted known data, such as the control of the temple by the Hasmonean high priests from about 150 BC onwards.

Three very relevant facts remained unobserved.:

  1. That the term Heb: letitto does not mean "after He gave" - that meaning has to be read into it. It means "for His giving".

  2. That the exact figure of 390 years is derived from a biblical passage, and is fully accounted for by that passage, without reference to actual history. In Ezekiel 4:4-5, the prophet performs a symbolic action, lying on his side for 390 days, each day standing for a year, the duration of the time when God would punish Israel.

  3. The pesharim fully illustrate their equation of all OT enemies, both Assyrians and Babylonians, with the Kittim in the Qumran period. The Kittim are certainly the Romans, as is established. The NT gives evidence of how far this equation could be taken, using the word "Babylon" as code for Rome (1 Peter 5:13, Revelation 18:2-3).

Taking these facts into account, the passage is better understood to be a prophecy, believed to be authorised by Ezekiel 4:4-5, of the length of time that a Roman occupation would last, 390 years. It does not refer back - there is no "after" - but forward. The writers are going even further than the NT, not only using "Babylon" as a code name for Rome, but "Nebuchadnezzar" as a code name for the ruler of Rome. If the date of the Period of Wrath was known, the date of the Teacher's appearance would be known, 20 years later.

When was the "Period of Wrath"? As shown in "Date of composition", the details of the Kittim in the "pesher on Habakkuk" fit very well the Roman occupation of AD 6. The Romans, putting the country under direct Roman rule, were so hated that they brought about the uprising of Judas the Galilean and subsequent zealotry. According to 1QpHab, the Kittim "march across the plain, destroying and plundering the cities of the earth", and "the fear and dread of them are on all the nations" (3:1-5). The details do not fit Pompey in 63 BC, who left them in religious independence and was even praised by Josephus for his "virtuous character." It was from AD 6, then, that the prediction of 390 years was made. In AD 26, 20 years later, the Teacher of Righteousness appeared.

The correction of the misreading "after" was made for a different purpose by I. Rabinowitz who in 1954 wrote, "Heb: Le never occurs in Hebrew in the temporal meaning 'after', 'from the time that', and it never has this meaning in the scrolls. Heb: Letitto' quite clearly means 'at(the timeof) His giving' or 'to (the time of) His giving' or 'as of His giving'" (Rabinowitz, I., "A Reconsideration of 'Damascus' and '390 Years' in the 'Damascus' ('Zadokite') Fragments", JBL 73 (1954), 1-35, note 8b, p.14.) But all official translations continued to say "after", because they thought it was required by their interpretation - a circular process.

The process of error that led to this further error was as follows. At the early stage of Qumran studies, scholars led by F.M. Cross and G. Vermes had fixed on the Hasmonean dating, "the consensus case". Enough of the Qumran site had been cleared to yield Hasmonean coins, and not enough of the content of the Scrolls had been studied to show that they covered a long period of time, and that the Teacher appeared in only one group. It was assumed, without observation of this fact, that all came from the same time, and that the Teacher was the founder of the sect.

The term Wrath (Heb: charon) appears in the name of the Young Lion of Wrath of the "pesher on Nahum", 4QpNah. In this pesher, interpreting a passage in the OT book of Nahum about symbolic lions, a Young Lion of Wrath crucified people, who were also disliked by the pesharist. The Jewish king Alexander Jannaeus in 88 BC crucified a large number of Pharisees who opposed him . Here seemed to be a candidate for resistance to the Teacher in the pre-Christian period, whatever the fine points of dating might be. But this conclusion disregarded essential facts. 4QpNah 1:1 , together with its argument about the Assyrian "lions" of Nahum being enemies of the righteous, showed that all the "lions" were GENTILES. Alexander Jannaeus was a Jewish king, not a Gentile. Further, the publication of the fragment 4Q448 , praising King Jonathan, showed that the sectarians approved of Alexander Jannaeus.

Since "the Wrath" may be seen to mean the occupying Romans after AD 6, the Young Lion of Wrath was a representative of the occupying Roman power, in charge in Jerusalem. The history derived from the pesher of the gospels, to be given in what follows, leads to the conclusion that he was Pontius Pilate, who performed crucifixions of opponents of the Teacher.


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