The pesher on Nahum (4Q169)

© 2005 Dr. Barbara Thiering (Mar 11, 2005) (revised April, 2005)

The next pesher in chronological sequence is the one on Nahum, 4Q169. This document was one of the pillars of the consensus case, which concluded early that it referred to the action of Alexander Jannaeus, who crucified Pharisees in 88 BC. The errors in this conclusion have been discussed in Period of Wrath.

THE QUMRAN PESHER ON NAHUM (4Q169) (extracts only; translated by B.T.)
Frags 3,4,col 1:1
[Where is the lions' den and the cave of the young lions?] (Nahum 2:11)

[Its pesher refers to]....a dwelling for the wicked ones of the Gentiles.


Where the lion went, a lion's cub to come there [with none to disturb] (Nahum 2:11)

[Its pesher refers to Deme]trius king of Greece who sought to enter Jerusalem on the counsel of the seekers-of-smooth-things. [And he did not enter, for God did not give Jerusalem] into the hand of the kings of Greece, from Antiochus until the appearance of the rulers of the Kittim. And afterwards she shall be trampled ...


The lion brings prey for his cubs, and strangles prey for his lionesses [and he fills his cave with prey, and his den with torn prey (Nahum 2:12)

The pesher of the saying] refers to the Young Lion of Wrath (Heb:kephir hacharon) who strikes by means of his great men, and the men of his Council, the Simple Ones of Ephraim. And as He says


he fills with prey] his cave and his den with torn prey (Nahum 2:12)

Its pesher refers to the Young Lion of Wrath [who fills a cave with a mass of corpses to wreak re]venge on the seekers-of-smooth-things, who hangs men alive [from the tree, to perform an abomination which was not done] in Israel since earlier times. Because concerning a man hanged alive on the tree, He declares, 'Behold I am against you, sa[ys the Lord of Hosts, and I will burn with smoke your multitude] and a sword will devour your young lions. I will cut off [from the earth the] torn prey. And there will not [be heard any longer the voice of your messengers].


Woe to the city of blood, all full of [treachery and plunder] (Nahum 3:1)

Its pesher refers to the city of Ephraim, the seekers-of-smooth-things for the Afterwards of Days, who walk in treachery and deceit.


[You also shall be drunk] and hidden away (Nahum 3:11a)

Its pesher refers to the wicked ones of E[phraim...] whose cup shall come after Manasseh...

This pesher may be shown to have been written in AD 34 or 35, by the Baptist faction in the Qumran community. It refers to the actions of Pontius Pilate, called the Young Lion of Wrath, and to the crucifixions of Simon Magus, Judas Iscariot, and Jesus (1:4-8). The identity of the two "thieves" will be examined in later discussions.

This is the document that introduces the term "seekers-of-smooth-things", Heb:dorshe hachalaqot, (1:7; 2:2,4; 3:3, 6-7). The men of Ephraim and Manasseh appear again, as examples of the seekers-of-smooth-things, thus linking this work with the pesher on Psalms. This document does not, however, name the Teacher or the Man of a Lie/ Wicked Priest. The reason, as will become apparent, is that the Teacher/John the Baptist had died a few years previously, in AD 31, and that the WP/Jesus was one of the seekers-of-smooth-things who were crucified. However, the related 4Q167, a pesher on Hosea which uses the same opprobrious terms, speaks of the Last Priest who will stretch out his hand to strike Ephraim (frag 2, 1-3). This may well refer to the Baptist, the Teacher/Priest, who attacked the "brood of vipers", called Pharisees and Sadducees, in Matthew 3:7. The pesher on Hosea would then have been written in the few years before the death of the Baptist.

The pesharist of Nahum is making the point, bitterly, that during the past 200 years Jerusalem has at times fallen under the control of Gentile foreigners, and the same thing is happening again now, with the Roman occupation. All of this, he believes, was predicted in a scripture passage, Nahum 2:11-13, which calls foreign overlords "lions". No matter that Nahum was talking about Nineveh long ago - scripture always refers to Qumran events.

He looks back to the Maccabean period, well remembered as the most dramatic occasion when foreign invaders, the Seleucids under Antiochus Epiphanes - named in 1:3 - had occupied Jerusalem. It was at that critical time that the seekers-of-smooth-things had invited Demetrius king of Greece to enter Jerusalem (1:2). How could it have been concluded by the consensus case that Pharisees, who were the seekers-of-smooth-things on their reading, would have invited a Gentile to enter Jerusalem? The Pharisees were nationalists.

The seekers-of-smooth-things were hellenisers. This is consistent with all uses of the term. Whereas Qumran homeland nationalists, following Essenes, were strictly ascetic, enduring harsh personal discipline for the sake of their victory over all evil, there was a major political movement in Diaspora Judaism, stemming from Alexander the Great, that welcomed hellenistic culture and learning. They did not see the need to inflict on themselves such a rigorous code of conduct that sex was regarded as defiling, and all kinds of "unclean" people should be shunned. So from the Qumran point of view they sought the easy way, smooth things. Jesus said, "my yoke is easy and my burden is light' (Matthew 11:30).

It has been seen as obvious from the start that the name of the seekers-of-smooth-things was a political pun, changing two similar letters, from Heb:halak "to walk" to Heb:chalaq "smooth". It thus contrasted the righteous ascetics who walked morally according to the halakah, the laws of Moses, with the hellenised Diaspora Jews, who sought smooth things, the easy way.

In the Maccabean period, 161-159 BC, a hellenising high priest, Alcimus, was appointed by the foreign conquerors, the Seleucids ( 1 Maccabees 7:9, 1 Maccabees 9:54-56). He was approached by Hasideans, a Greek form of Hasidim, "pious ones", who thought they could trust him for help but were betrayed by him (1 Maccabees 7:13-18). The name Hasidim appears in the Qumran document 4Q521, the Messianic Apocalypse, which contains clear evidence that the Hasidim believed in resurrection, which was also a Pharisee doctrine. It paraphrases Isaiah 61:1-2, adding the phrase "he will revive the dead". The book of Daniel, written 168-165 BC, believes in resurrection. "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life" (Daniel 12:2).

The "fourth philosophy" of Judas the Galilean, who led the anti-Roman uprisng of AD 6, held Pharisee doctrines, and added a stricter discipline, being prepared for martyrdom for the national religion (Josephus, Ant. 18, 23). The zealot martyrs of Masada believed in resurrection, so were willing to die (Josephus, JW 7, 339-340)). Judas the Galilean was joined by Saddok, a Pharisee (Ant. 18,4).

From these facts it may be concluded that the Hasidim were Jerusalem (Qumran) Essenes who had adopted a belief in resurrection that was subsequently shared by Pharisees. Josephus attributes such a belief to Essenes in JW 2, 154-157. They were different from other Essenes who did not hold such a view. These Essenes upheld the laws of Moses, so followed the halakah. They came to condemn the hellenising Alcimus, one of the seekers-of smooth-things, so the pun could have arisen in their time.

Hellenisers continued among Diaspora Jews especially. Some of these were hellenised Pharisees, with a broader outlook than the Hasidim. Greek culture gave them advanced learning and a sense of confidence in their pagan environment. As time went on, and especially under the inspiration of Herod the Great, Diaspora Jews began to dream of a Jewish world power, a Kingdom of God, that would be better for the world than the rising Roman power. For some, the Kingdom would centre in Jerusalem and make the whole world Jews. For others, it would centre in Samaria, or simply anywhere in the Diaspora, and put Hellenist thought and culture above Jewish identity.

But at the Roman occupation of AD 6 a new cause of internal dissension arose. Rome by now knew of the aim of a Jewish-Samaritan theocratic empire and saw it as hostile to their interests. They occupied the homeland, removing its Herodian rulers. For Judas the Galilean's fourth philosophy the survival of their ideal meant that battle had to be joined with them. These were the militant branch of the seekers-of-smooth-things. Others, such as Jesus, belonged with them as culturally hellenised, but opposed armed resistance to Rome. The militants under Simon Magus and Judas Iscariot continued into the gospel period, were punished by Pontius Pilate, and their party continued through the fall of Jerusalem until their self-destruction on Masada.

The Hasidim led by John the Baptist adopted a different method, based on the solar calendar chronology, that heaven would intervene at an appointed time to punish the Romans. At Qumran there was a schism between his Jerusalem oriented party, not taking up arms, and the Diaspora oriented militant branch of the seekers-of-smooth-things. The events of the gospel period were a consequence. The third man to be crucified by Pilate after the uprising of December 32 AD should have been Theudas-Barabbas, who was Saddok the Pharisee as an old man, but within the party some saw their opportunity to substitute Jesus in order to get rid of him, for they believed he was disloyal to their cause.

As has been seen, The name the Young Lion of Wrath (Heb:kephir hacharon) for Pontius Pilate in pNah 1:6 and pHos frag 2, 2 (4Q167) is consistent with the naming of the Roman occupation as the Period of Wrath (qets charon) in CD 1:5. The fact that Pilate was dismissed in late AD 36 (Ant.18, 88-89) dates the Nahum pesher before 36, as they would have gloated over his removal.

The Herodian hand of the Nahum pesher is a strong indication that it was composed in the Christian period, once it is admitted that it is not a copy of an earlier work. Here we have, it is believed, a priceless historical document, contemporary with and referring to the crucifixion of Jesus.