Qumran is another hot, dry and desolate area that we visited, west of the Dead Sea, in Israel. It is in these mountains that David hid while fleeing from Saul, and Jesus is tempted by Satan. This is also where the caves of the Dead Sea scrolls were found between 1946-1956. In 11 known caves, there have been more than 800 documents discovered!
The story says that a young Bedouin shepherd boy discovered the caves after leaving the herd to look for a stray sheep. On his journey he found a cave, and inquisitively threw a stone into the cave – like most boys would do! He must have been very surprised to hear the sound of pottery pots breaking as the stone hit them! He had discovered one of the most important things that would revolutionise our knowledge of scripture, and our assurance of it’s origin, reliability and authenticity.
A Hebrew university scholar – Professor Eliezer Lipa Sukenik wrote about his experience in opening one of the ancient scrolls for the first time:
“My hands shook as I started to unwrap one of them. I read a few sentences. It was written in beautiful biblical Hebrew. The language was like that of the Psalms, but the text was unknown to me. I looked and looked, and I suddenly had the feeling that I was privileged by destiny to gaze upon a Hebrew Scroll which had not been read for more than 2,000 years. ”More of the story can be found here, at the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library’ –https://iaa-dss.appspot.com/learn-about-the-scrolls/discovery-and-publication?locale=en_US
The place we visited at Qumran had fabulous views of the caves, and the excavations there have revealed quite an established settlement! This ‘village’ of people were devoted to copying portions of scripture, onto papyrus or parchment that would be rolled up to make the scrolls. Archaeologists have uncovered ritual baths that the scribes would cleanse themselves in before commencing transcribing of scripture. They hid the scrolls in pottery jars in 11 known caves, and then (according to the tour guide…as there are differing opinions) they abandoned the place for the Masada fortress. The Romans destroyed their settlement around AD 68. (More information – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/who-wrote-the-dead-sea-scrolls-11781900/)
The newest caves were found under the visitors walkway only 5 years ago!! Who knows what other treasures are found there in the mountains.
I am astounded at how indestructible the Bible is – it has stood the test of time. It has stood through many changes in culture, language, technology and interpretation. Yet the stories are the same as we read in our Bible app! It would been incredible to discover these documents that had been hidden from sight for thousands of years, to find complete books of the Bible, Psalms, evidence of Judaism and Christianity – all inscribed throughout the scrolls. Verbal traditions may change over time, but these old scriptures are as they were written. As obvious as that sounds, the words are there. The mixture of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic are right there. Evidence. In our faces. Transcribed over and over for hundreds, even thousands of years. Scripture is not just words and sentences. It is life. It is life-changing! Advice, promises, songs, poems, sermons, stories, prophecy…it is all there, waiting to infuse us with God’s big story of Redemption.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”2 Tim 3:16
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”Hebrews 4:12
Thank-you God, for the beautiful narratives we read, thank-you that we can have insight into the times and places people lived when they were written. Thank-you that you have preserved these stories that tell over and over again of your character, and of the big plan to save humanity from sin. Thank-you that the stories tell us of Jesus, our Saviour, and the promise of Heaven and Earth made new one day – Amen.