How Did they Pray?: Prayer at Qumran

Rebekah Haigh

The Qumran community was an amazing repository of Second Temple texts, hymns, and prayers, many of which offer a glimpse into the formation of fixed prayer in ancient Judaism. These texts unfortunately prompt more questions than they answer, especially about the form and conventions of Jewish prayer in the Second Temple era. We possess texts without context and can only speculate about the use and function of these prayers within the community. While these prayer texts offer a glimpse into the evolution of fixed prayer, we have no idea to what extent these texts were standardized in Qumran or how reflective they are of Jewish prayer trends outside the community.[1] Nevertheless, in the last several decades, scholars have turned to texts like Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat, Daily Prayers, Barki Nafshi, and the Words of the Luminaries as a window into the formation and practice of fixed prayer at Qumran and into the evolutionary stream of Jewish liturgy.

One of the primary challenges is determining when fixed prayer became a regular part of Jewish worship. Some scholars argue that fixed liturgy was not innovated until Yavneh, when the rabbis needed to fill the void left by the destruction of the Temple.[2] Others, however, like Moshe Weinfeld and Daniel Falk, argue that fixed, communal prayer began to evolve during the Second Commonwealth, something demonstrated by Qumran texts and their fascinating commonalities with later rabbinic prayers.[3]

The institutionalized prayer practices in rabbinic Judaism developed to fill the void left by the Temple cult; however, in the Second Temple era, these practices evolved for a variety of reasons.[4] According to the rabbis, fixed prayer was a regular part of the Temple service (m. Tamid 5.1; m. Berakhot 12a), something done in tandem with the daily sacrifices. However, the historicity of these references is doubtful.[5] Jeremy Penner argues that the Temple was not the center of any sort of formal, fixed prayer; rather, people saw the morning and afternoon sacrifices as propitious times for spontaneous prayer, especially in light of biblical texts connecting the incense of the sacrifices to prayer (Ps. 141:2).[6] The textual evidence—from early P texts to Jubilees—demonstrates that fixed prayer was not a part of the daily sacrificial service.[7] The evidence does, however, support popular participation in the Temple sacrifices through habitual, “spontaneous” prayer (Luke 1; Acts 3:1; Sir 50), which was seen as a matter of personal piety not communal obligation.[8] However, this association between spontaneous prayer and the Temple sacrifices did eventually evolve into something fixed, laying the groundwork for the “transfiguration of prayer as sacrifice after the Temple was destroyed in 70CE.”[9]

Similar to later rabbinic Judaism, the Qumran community lived without participation in the Temple cult.[10] Which is why it could be assumed that this too was the motivation behind the development of fixed prayer at Qumran. This is unsatisfying for several reasons. First, many of these Qumran prayer texts are not sectarian and may reflect the liturgical traditions of Jews outside Qumran.[11] Second, while the Yaḥad did disassociate itself from the Temple, this rational for the development of fixed prayer is too simplistic in light of Qumran’s driving commune-ideology.[12] The Qumran community formulated their prayers based on the cycle of the luminaries rather than the Temple sacrifices. This development reflected their desire to live harmoniously within God’s created order, which in turn was motivated by the community’s unique self-understanding and its concern for praying together with the angels “as a means of cultivating and fostering their own sense of exaltation, predetermined chosenness, and realized eschatology.”[13] Esther Chazon identifies several types of prayer at Qumran: eschatological prayers; private devotional prayers; prayers for protection; sectarian prayers for things such as covenant renewal or purification; and regular communal prayer at fixed times during the day, week, and year.[14] It is this last kind of liturgical function in which this survey is interested.[15]

Several different collections of Dead Sea Scroll liturgical texts indicate that the Qumran community was performing regular, fixed communal prayer centuries before the destruction of the Temple inspired the rabbis to legislate it.[16] A sampling of these texts includes: the Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat [4Q400-407, 11Q17], the Daily Prayers [4Q503], The Words of the Luminaries [4Q504, 4Q506], and the Festival Prayers [1Q34, 34bis, 4Q505, 507–509]. However, it is important to distinguish between sectarian and non-sectarian works, as the non-sectarian or pre-sectarian works—like Words of the Luminaries, Festival Prayers, Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat—can hint something about the development of fixed prayer outside Qumran.[17] Likewise, potentially sectarian texts may give readers more specific insight into the unique, liturgical concerns of the community.[18]

The Community Rule (1QS 9:26b-10:8) and the Hodayot (1QHa 20:7-14) offer important insights into Qumran’s prayer practices. These texts provide a calendar of prayer times for the community, describing four main periods of liturgical activity: sunrise, midday, sunset, and midnight. Thus, in addition revolving around astronomical cycles, fixed prayer was expanded to encompass “the totality of the daily prayer experiences of the community, including the daily midday meal an the nighttime vigil.”[19] As Penner points out, the liturgical calendar described in 1QS and 1QHa supports a cosmological, rather than Temple, motivation for fixed prayer “as an act of obedience, rooted within the cosmos itself.”[20] The Community Rule (1QS X 10) is also significant for its allusion to the regular recitation of the Shema at Qumran, something that has become the fundamental element of rabbinic liturgy.[21]

The Daily Prayers

          The Daily Prayers (4Q503) include joint blessings for the renewal of the heavenly lights in the morning and evening during the month of Nisan. However, Chazon argues that since this text contains daily prayers for the renewal of heavenly lights, we can posit that this text was either a “model for such prayers or a special version for regular daily prayers in actual use.”[22] These prayers also reflect the astronomical model, which rests on the solar calendar found in Astronomical Book (1 En. 72- 82).[23] Prayers were offered at sunrise, “when the sun ascends/goes forth to shine upon the earth,” and at evening when “they shall bless.”[24] As Penner defines this model:

Morning prayer is linked to the praise of God’s glory in creation and the renewal of creation that occurs with every sunrise; evening prayer is linked to the praise of God’s glory in the heavenly temple. Those praying on earth take their cue from the appearance of astronomical phenomena, the sun in the morning, and the moon and stars in the evening. For both times of prayer, the congregation on earth assumes an angelic counterpart to be praising with them.[25]

In regards to the function of these prayers, Chazon argues for a communal recitation, considering the plural directives to praise, respond, and say.[26] Additionally, this text has a liturgical structure, exhibited by its opening and closing berakhah formulas, as well as its time and response formulas.[27] Its particular formulaic conclusion, “Peace unto you, Israel,” is also found in synagogue inscriptions, the kiddish, and the Amidah.[28]

The Daily Prayers also exhibits the Qumran liturgical motif of joint worship with the angels, something reflected in other texts like Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat. Chazon argues that the idea that the angels “testify” (frag. 65) and offer praise (frag. 8-9) with the congregation is a one of the overlooked aspects of the Daily Prayers’ liturgical function.[29] This joint praise occurs as the heavenly lights are renewed: “…praise your name, O God of the light[t]s, for you have renewed […] gates of light, and with the joyous praise of your glory…” (frag. 30). Interestingly, this connection between joint praise and the daily renewal of the luminaries reflects the rabbinic blessing on the heavenly lights, the Qedushah prayer of the Yoser service. The Daily Prayers also contains joint praise for the Shabbats and a festival, possibly Passover.[30] It does not, however, have quite the same “heightened experience of communion with the angels which took place on special days” that we find in the Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat and 4QBerakhot.[31]

To summarize, the Daily Prayers are an early example of fixed, daily prayer, although these prayers are based on the astronomical model rather than Temple sacrifices. Qumran’s astronomical model makes sense in light of its concern with joining the angels in praise of God and his cosmos. After all, the Qumran community understood the angels to “coalesce with the stars in the heavens and their movements.”[32] The language of the Daily Prayers, therefore, signals its communal context and set structure, while its liturgical signposts suggest its continuity with later rabbinic prayers.

Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat

            Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat is another significant liturgical cycle of prayers, one that is cosmological in focus. In these thirteen songs, human worshipers invite angelic beings to praise God, while describing the angelic praise in the heavenly realm.[33] Although the text is primarily filled with descriptions of angelic praise, the actual words of this praise are cloaked in mystery. Like the Daily Prayers, this liturgy has a fixed setting, in this case, recitation on Shabbat.[34] Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat does not contain explicitly sectarian language, but it may signal a sectarian background through its theology, motifs, and similarities to other texts like 4QBerakhot.[35] Regardless of its origins or the extent of its adoption by the community, Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat can tell us something about the Sabbath liturgical practices of the community.

Several elements signal the text’s liturgical use. First, the introductory formula connects each prayer to a specific day and liturgical setting. Second, Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat also has marked similarities to other liturgical collections, like the Daily Prayers. One of those most significant of these similarities is the emphasis on unity of worship with the angels (4Q400 2 1, 6).[36] Third, though rare, the first person plural forms (song 2 and 6) imply a communal use.[37] Forth, the experimental, ecstasy inducing, style of the prayers seems calculated to engender praise.[38] Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat also contains a single benediction:

Blessed be [the] Lo[r]d, the Kin[g of a]ll, above all blessing and pr[aise. And may he bless all the holy] ones who bless [him and declare him right]eous in the name of his glory, [and may] he [bl]ess all the everlastingly blessed ones (4Q403 1 i 28-9).[39]

Falk suggests that human worshipers uttered this benediction in response to angelic praise, since elsewhere the Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat resists detailing angelic praise. Its insertion signals that these prayers were heard, if not recited, by the community.[40] This benediction formula is reminiscent of the ancient ʿalenu prayer from the musaf Amidah for the New Year, which dates back to the Second Temple era.[41] In addition, the holiness and blessing language in Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat may be an allusion to the Qedushah:[42]

Let the holiest of the godlike ones sanctity the King of glory who sanctifies by his holiness all his holy ones (4Q403 1 i 30-31).

And the chariots of his debir give praise together, and their cherubim and thei[r] ’ophanim bless wondrously […] the chiefs of the divine structure. And they praise him in his holy debir (4Q403 1 ii 15-16).[43]

Falk suggests this allusion to the language Qedushah is another indication of the text’s liturgical use. This connection of joint-angelic praise, holiness, and the Shabbat themes in liturgy reflect Jubilees, which says that humans are to sanctify the Sabbath along with angels (Jub 2:17-22). The Sabbath is also described as a holy day, a day to bless the Lord and to “offer incense and to bring gifts and sacrifices before the Lord for the days and the Sabbaths” (Jub 50:9-11). Likewise, in the hymn for the Sabbath day in Divre ha-Meʾorot, the angels are invited to join with the community in blessing God’s holiness. Thus, angelic-human praise of the holiness of God on the Sabbath is certainly a thread of Qumran liturgical. Interestingly, these texts—the Daily Prayers, the Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat, and possibly the hymn in Divre ha-Meʾorot—represent the only surviving texts for Sabbath prayer from the Second Temple period, serving as a unique window into the past.[44]

Barkhi Nafshi

            So far, this survey has shown examples of daily and Shabbat prayer, but the Barkhi Nafshi (4Q434-438) offers a glimpse into a different variety of fixed prayer. Barkhi Nafshi is made up of five collections of fragments found in Cave 4 at Qumran. The text is so named because of its opening lines, which are an allusion to Psalm 103 and 104, “Bless, O my soul, the Lord.” This collection offers hauntingly beautiful praises of God’s deliverance and grace for his people. While some like David Seely argue that the collection is sectarian, others disagree because of the lack of explicit sectarian language.[45] Regardless, like Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat and The Daily Prayers, the content is consistent with the Qumran community’s theological concerns and has clearly been adopted in some sense by the community.[46] There is distinct possibility that these hymns were used in a liturgical setting.[47] As Moshe Weinfeld has argued, Barki Nafshia (4Q434 frag. 2) contains the signifying elements for the rabbinic prayer Birkat ha-mazon la-’avelim, the Grace after Meals for mourners.[48] It “adduces clear evidence about the existence of the grace after meals at Qumran.”[49] If Weinfeld is correct, the 4Q434 fragment supports the idea that by the Second Temple period, at least in Qumran, prayer had begun to fix itself not only around calendrical and astronomical cues but also around the ordinary rudiments of daily life like meals and grief. Unfortunately, Weinfeld’s insights, while fascinating, are not unassailable. Even if 4Q434 frag. 2 does reveal an early form of the Birkat ha-mazon, we have no idea how reflective it is of Qumran’s actual, liturgical meal practices—if they even had any—let alone those of the larger Jewish world.

Divre ha-Meʾorot

            As a collection of petitionary prayers for the days of the week, the prayers of Divre ha-Meʾorot (4Q504 and 4Q406) are particularly informative. Their genre is confessional, seeking divine favor and restoration for the community.[50] This liturgy was not meant to be recited daily; rather, perhaps like the Songs of the Sabbath Prayer, it was a collection for special circumstances, possibly a fast or festival.[51] Others, like Chazon, argue for their regular daily use.[52] The prayers begin on Sunday, progressing daily through Israel’s history before finally describing Israel’s exile and restoration on Friday. Their purpose is to reestablish Israel’s covenantal relationship with God:[53]

With humble heart we seek atonement for our iniquities and the iniquity of our fathers, for our rebellion and continued hostility to You. Yet we have not refused Your trials, nor has our spirit loathed Your chastisement, so as to break our covenant with you…(4Q504 col 19. Frgs. 1 +2 6-9).[54]

On Shabbat, the petition ceases and the liturgy focuses on hymns of praise. It is doubtful that these prayers originated with the Yahad community, but they were in all likelihood adapted for use by the community, like some of the previously discussed prayer collections.[55] As non-sectarian prayer, the Words of the Luminaries give readers a glimpse into the evolution of fixed prayer for Jews outside the Yahad community.

Several elements signal the liturgical nature of Divre ha-Meʾorot. First, there is the superscription: “prayer for the X day,” although it is only extant for the fourth and seventh days. Additionally, both the third person plural and the address to God in the second person signals that this work was communally recited.[56] Also, tellingly, the prayers use liturgical structures and formulas. For example, each prayer in the collection opens with the plea “Remember, Adonai” and ends with the benediction “Blessed is the Lord,” followed by “Amen, amen.”[57] This closing blessing seems to be a liturgical response, as it is also reflected in Festival Prayers (4Q507-509) and the Songs of the Sage (4Q511 63).[58] Although the motivation behind these prayers is supplication and forgiveness, petitionary fixed prayer is consistent with rabbinic liturgical norms, as Yom Kippur liturgy demonstrates.[59] Bilhah Nitzan has also argued that the striking similarities between Divre ha-Meʾorot and the later Taḥanum prayers and the Amidah benedictions indicate that Divre ha-Meʾorot was a liturgical prototype, or at least part of a “continuous tradition of daily supplications with customary themes and wordings.”[60]

Commonalities between Rabbinic and Qumranic prayer

            As this survey as shown, Rabbinic and Qumranic prayer share a number of striking commonalities. For instance, they share similar content and themes, as evidenced by the “Hymn to the Creator” (11Q5) when compared with the rabbinic Yoṣer ʾOr—a benediction that frames the Shema and praises the Creator of lightand also by the Daily Prayers (4Q503) when compared with Qeriʾat Shemaʿ.[61] It is intriguing that both communities possessed daily prayers for praising the Creator at sunrise and sunset.[62] Likewise, rabbinic prayer also contains hints of one of Qumran’s overarching liturgical themes, prayer with the angels, which permeates texts like Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat, Divre ha-Meʾorot, and the Daily Prayers.[63] In addition, these two communities share elements of genre, style, and rhetoric. Prayers of supplication are common to both, as demonstrated by the Divre ha-Meʾorot and the fast day liturgies in the modern siddur.[64] Both communities also share a genre of blessing/praise, which begins with the word brwk, “and is followed at Qumran either by a second- or third-person address of God, and in rabbinic liturgy always by a second-person address.”[65] Richard Sarason also identifies a common genre he labels the genre of “ecstatic” praise, which describes and participates in angelic liturgy. Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat strongly evokes this genre, with its mystical, experiential language and breathtaking descriptions of the worship of the angelic beings.

As several scholars have pointed out, Qumran prayer also shares some common vocabulary and idioms with later rabbinic liturgy.[66] Esther Chazon demonstrated this in her exploration of the Daily Prayers, as did Moshe Weinfeld in his analyses of the 4Q434 fragment of Barkhi Nafshi. However, a majority of this shared phrasing and vocabulary—and, in part, some of the shared genres, rhetorical concerns, and themes—are rooted in the biblical prayer models.[67] Which is why a comparison of Qumran and rabbinic prayer does not demonstrate that one evolved from the other, rather that both communities were drawing on shared conventions and a common cultural horizon.[68] Imagine an evolutionary stream rather than direct linkage. However, Qumran’s prayers do reflect a unique social and religious setting, quite distinct from the Tannaitic and Amoraic period; Qumran had its own sectarian concerns and language. Thus, while both the rabbis and the Qumran community possessed similar forms of fixed prayer, these forms were rooted in different calendrical origins, thematic interests, and social settings.[69]


            What then can we actually say about fixed prayer at Qumran? Unfortunately, we cannot pop back in a time machine and spend a month watching how and when, and learning why, these ancients prayed. Our only knowledge comes through texts like Shirot ʿOlat ha-Shabbat, the Daily Prayers, and Divre ha-Meʾorot. These texts can only take us so far. They cannot tell us if every member of the community regularly prayed along with the rising luminaries or while breaking bread.[70] Neither can they tell us if Jews outside the Yahad prayed in similar ways, using similar fixed, liturgical prayers. Additionally, it is uncertain whether all of these different prayers were incorporated into a single, coherent liturgical scheme, something similar to what the rabbis created in the siddurim; although attempts have been made to demonstrate such coherence.[71] Nitzan argues, for example, that the Sabbath prayer in Words of the Luminaries was used every Shabbat, while the Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat were used as a substitute for the musaf service.[72] While Falk argues that the Sabbath benedictions in the Daily Prayers accompanied the recitation of the Shema, and the Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat was an esoteric liturgy for an elite few.[73] At the end of the day, this is all still conjecture.[74] Likewise, Qumran is our primary window into the Second Century. In other words, we do not possess a comparative plethora of prayer texts from ancient Sadducees or every-day Judeans. We can only postulate that the non-sectarian or pre-sectarian prayers at Qumran are reflective of the prayers and liturgical traditions of the broader Jewish world.

Nonetheless, some observations can be drawn from this survey. First, texts like the Words of the Luminaries and the Daily Prayers demonstrate that Qumran possessed fixed forms of communal prayer with specific thematic concerns and wording that were recited regularly.[75] The Qumran corpus also provides evidence for fixed prayers on Shabbat, such as Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat or the Sabbath hymn in Divre ha-Meʾorot. Likewise, the Barkhi Nafshi provides support for an early form of the Birkat ha-mazon. Second, as Chazon, Weinfeld and others have demonstrated, these prayers possess a remarkable degree of commonality with rabbinic prayer, particularly in their liturgical structures and formulas.[76] Thus, it is naïve to assume that fixed prayer and Jewish liturgy suddenly appeared with Pharisaic-rabbinic Judaism. Qumran prayer texts are a vital witness to the history of Jewish prayer, and within these texts we glimpse a specific moment in the evolution of Jewish prayer.[77]Although interpreters must navigate the Qumran prayer texts with caution and awareness of inherent complexities, such an investigation is extremely valuable for understanding the history of Jewish liturgy.

[1] Lawrence H. Schiffmann, “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Early History of Jewish Liturgy,” in The Synagogue in Late Antiquity (ed. Lee I. Levine; Philadelphia: The American Schools of Oriental Research: 1987), 34-46.

[2] Proponents of this view include Ezra Fleischer and Lee Levine. See Jeremy Penner, Patterns of Daily Prayer in Second Temple Period Judaism (Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah; Brill 2012), 1-34.

[3] See Moshe Weinfeld, Normative and Sectarian Judaism in the Second Temple Period (London: T &T Clark International, 2005), 53-67; Daniel K. Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 1-54; Schiffman, “The Scrolls,” 34.

[4] Avot R. Nat. A 4; See also James R. Davila, Liturgical Works Eerdmans Commentaries on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids, MI.,: Eerdmans, 2000), 11.

[5] J. Neusner, The Idea of History in Rabbinc Judaism (Leiden: Brill, 2005).

[6] See also texts like Judt 9:1; Ezra 9; 2 Macc 14:31-36.

[7] Penner, Patterns of Daily Prayer, 67-8.

[8] Ibid., 70.

[9] Ibid., 35-6.

[10] Daniel Falk, “Qumran Prayer Texts and the Temple,” in Sapiential, Liturgical and Poetical Texts from Qumran (eds. by Daniel K. Falk, Florentino Garcia Martinez, and Eileen M. Schuller; STDJ 35; Leiden: Brill, 2000),106.

[11] Falk, “Qumran Prayer,”106-8.

[12] Qumran community saw the Temple as an ineffective, defiled system (4QMMT). See also Penner, Patterns of Daily Prayer, 35-165.

[13] Penner, “With the Coming Light, At the Appointed Time of Night: Daily Prayer and its Importance at Qumran,” 6, 209.

[14] Esther Chazon, “The Functions of the Qumran Prayer Texts: An Analysis of the Daily Prayers (4Q503)” in The Dead Sea Scrolls: Fifty Years after their Discovery (ed. L. H. Shiffman, E. Tov, and J.C. VanderKam; Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society and the Shrine of the Book, 2000), 218-19.

[15] Penner indentifies two different “clusters” of fixed prayer: apocalyptic and confession/petitionary (Penner, “Mapping Fixed Prayers from the Dead Sea scrolls onto Second Temple Period Judaism,” Dead Sea Discoveries 21 no. 1 (2014): 8).

[16] Penner, “With the Coming Light,” 2.

[17] The origins of these texts are notoriously difficult to pin down; however, the process is still helpful because different social contexts can signal different things about the prayers and function. On the non-sectarian origins of Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat see Carol Newsom,“‘Sectually Explicit’ Literature From Qumran,” in The Hebrew Bible and Its Interpreters (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 167-187.

[18] For the provenance of the Daily Prayers see Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers, 29. See also Esther Chazon, “Prayers from Qumran and Their Historical Implications,” in Dead Sea Discoveries vol 1, no. 3; (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 282. It is also important to note that, regardless of origin, the Qumran community adapted many outside texts for their own purposes.

[19] Penner, Patterns of Daily Prayer, 163-4.

[20] Penner, “Mapping Fixed Prayers,” 15.

[21] Although the Shema is not replicated in a prayer context, we can assume the Qumran community recited it. The poet in the Manual of Discipline mentions that he enters into the covenant of God morning and evening (1QS X 10). Moshe Weifeld and others identify ‘entering into the covenant of God’ as a reference to praying the Shema. Additionally, as in traditional Jewish liturgy, the Shema is conjoined with a benediction of the lights. See Weinfeld, Normative and Sectarian Judaism in the Second Temple Period (London: T &T Clark International, 2005), 54-5.

[22] Esther Chazon, “The Functions,” 219-20.

[23] Penner, “Mapping Fixed Prayers,” 16.

[24] DJD 7:81-105 and 262-86; Davila, Liturgical Works, 213-238.

[25] Penner, “Mapping Fixed Prayers,” 16.

[26]Chazon, “The Functions,” 222.

[27] Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers, 23-4, 35-42.

[28] Chazon, “The Functions” 220-2.

[29] Davila, Liturgical Works, 214-5, 237; See Chazon’s translation, “Liturgical Communion with the Angels at Qumran,” in Sapiential, Liturgical and Poetical Texts from Qumran (eds. Daniel K. Falk, Florentino Garcia Martinez, and Eileen M. Schuller; STDJ 35; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 99.

[30] The Sabbath and festival daily prayers exhibit special themes like rest, delight, holiness, and election. Chazon, “Hymns and Prayers in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” 259.

[31] Chazon, “Liturgical Communion,” 99.

[32] Penner, Patterns of Daily Prayer, 211.

[33] Because of the overabundance of textual allusions to Ezekiel, these prayers may have been used during the Sabbaths leading up to Sukkot. See Chazon, “Liturgical Communion,” 99.

[34] The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice were recited during the time of the whole offering, probably during the first thirteen Sabbaths of the year. See Newsom, Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, 18-9, 59; Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers, 134-154.

[35] Another significant text is 4QBerakhot, which contains the liturgy of Qumran’s covenant renewal ceremony. Unlike the Serek ha-Yahad version of covenant renewal, 4QBerakhot praises God’s attributes and mysteries and includes descriptions of the heavenly Temple, the merkabah, and the angelic orders. These themes are also mirrored in Shirot ʿOlat Ha-Shabbat. Penner, “Mapping Fixed Prayer,” 5; Daniel Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers, 127; Davila, Liturgical Works, 86-90.

[36] Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers, 134.

[37] Ibid., 135.

[38] Ibid., 134-5.

[39] Adapted from Newsom’s construction (Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, 189).

[40] Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers, 148.

[41] Ibid.,147. In fact, the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice may be an attempt to preserve Temple liturgy

[42] The Qedushah is a liturgical combination of Isa 6:3 and Ezek 3:12, in which humans join with the angels to praise the holiness of God. It is reflected in Jewish and Christian liturgy. Although the Qedushah is only alluded to, not quoted, this makes sense since the whole point of the Sabbath songs is to cloak the angelic praise in mystery, heightening the mystical experience of the worshipers. See Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers, 147.

[43] Translation from Newsom, Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, 211 (slightly modified).

[44] Esther Chazon, “On the Special Character of Sabbath Prayer: New Data from Qumran,” Journal of Jewish Music and Liturgy 15 (1992/3):15 n. 12.

[45] Daivd Rolph Seely, “Implanting pious qualities as a theme in the Barki Nafshi hymns” in Dead Sea scrolls: fifty years after their discover: proceedings of the Jerusalem Congress, (1997): 323. Seely, “Barkhi Nafshi” in Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls vol 1 (eds Lawrence Schiffman and James C. VanderKam; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 77.

[46] George J. Brooke, “Body Parts in Barkhi Nafshi and the Qualifications for Membership of the Worshiping Community,” in Sapiential, Liturgical and Poetical Texts from Qumran (eds., Daniel K. Falk, Florentino Garcia Martinez, and Eileen M. Schuller; STDJ 35; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 80.

[47] Mika S. Pajunen, “From Poetic Structure to Historical Setting: Exploring the Background of the Barkhi Nafshi Hymns,” in Prayer and Poetry in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature: Essays in Honor of Eileen Schuller on the Occasion of Her 65th Birthday ( eds. Jeremy Penner, Ken M. Penner, and Cecilia Wassen; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 376.

[48] Seely, “Barkhi Nafshi,” 77.

[49] Moshe Weinfeld, “Grace After Meals at Qumran” JBL 111 (1992): 429, 437.

[50] Falk, Daily, Sabbath, 66-7.

[51] This is implied by the material’s strong connections to Festival Prayers. Penner also argues the petitionary genre is aligned “within the Deuteronomistic cycle of sin-punishment-restoration as a means of making sense of current events, how the nation of Israel fit within them, and how the praying community could attempt to rectify the situation through petition”; Penner, “Mapping Fixed Prayer,” 23, 103;Weinfeld, Normative and Sectarian, 60-1.

[52] Richard S. Sarason, “Communal Prayer at Qumran and Among the Rabbis” in Liturgical Perspectives: Prayer and Poetry in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, January 19-23 (Ed. Esther G. Chazon; Leiden: Brill, 2003), 160.

[53] Penner, “Mapping Fixed Prayer,” 19.

[54] Donald W. Parry and Emanuel Tov, The Dead Sea Reader (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

[55] Falk, Daily, Sabbath, 88. See also Esther Chazon, “Is Divre ha-Meʾorot A Sectarian Prayer?” in The Dead Sea Scrolls Forty Years of Research (eds. Devorah Dimant and Uriel Rappaport; Leiden: Brill, 1992) 16-7.

[56] Penner, Patterns of Daily Prayer, 103.

[57] Davila, Liturgical Works, 244-266.

[58] Chazon, “The Functions,” 221.

[59] Chazon argues that these prayers were adapted for the requirements of daily liturgy and are some of our earliest examples of daily recitation of prayers for deliverance. However, the petitionary element would also fit with Weinfeld’s three-fold pattern of prayers: knowledge, repentance, and forgiveness. See Falk’s summary of Chazon’s Hebrew dissertation, “Liturgical Document,” (Daily, Sabbath, 71).

[60] Falk, Daily, Sabbath, 73-5, 86-87; See Nitzan’s extensive parallels between Divre ha-Meʾorot and the thirteen intermediate petitions of the Amidah. Nitzan, Qumran Prayer and Religious Poetry, (Translated by Jonathan Chipman. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1994), 71,108.

[61] Richard Sarason, “The ‘Intersections’ of Qumran and Rabbinic Judaism: The Case of Prayer Texts and Liturgies,” Dead Sea Discoveries 8 (2001): 172-4.

[62] Ibid., 172-4.

[63] The Yoṣer ʾOr also speaks of the heavenly luminaries praising God.

[64] See Weinfeld, Normative and Sectarian, 60-1.

[65] Sarason, “The ‘Intersections’,”174-5.

[66] Moshe Weinfeld, “Grace After Meals at Qumran,” JBL 111 (1992): 427-40.

[67] Sarason, The ‘Intersections’,” 175. For example, even the Qedushah is drawn from Isa 6:3 and Ezek 3:12 and the Shema from Deut 6.

[68] Ibid., 175-6.

[69] For example, the rabbis patterned their fixed prayers on the memory of the Temple sacrifices, while the Qumran community patterned their prayers on the cycle of the luminaries and desire to touch the heavenly realm through joint-angelic worship. See Chazon, “Liturgical Communion,” 95-105.

[70] Prayer could easily have been individual rather than communal (Let. Aris 158-160; Ant. 4.212).

[71] Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers, 154.

[72] The musaf service was held between the regular sacrifices. See Nitzan, Qumran Prayer, 293 n. 67.

[73] Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers, 154.

[74] Schiffman, “Dead Sea Scrolls,” 39; Falk, Daily, Sabbath, 87.

[75] Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers, 92-4.

[76] Weinfeld, Normative and Sectarian Judaism, 55-6; Davila, Liturgical Works, 244-266; Chazon, “The Functions.”

[77] Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers, 225; Schiffman, “Dead Sea Scrolls,” 34.


One thought on “How Did they Pray?: Prayer at Qumran

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s