Description and Background
Among the scrolls found in Cave 4 at Qumran was a version of the biblical book of Exodus. Known as 4Q22 Paleo Exodusm, the manuscript comprises forty-five columns of script, of which forty-three are partially extant (columns 14 and 43 are missing). The good preservation of the parchment suggests that what has survived was at the center of a rolled-up scroll, the outer portion of which deteriorated over time. Scholars assigned to work on this particular scroll have suggested that the outer portion probably consisted of the book of Genesis. Indeed, another scroll from Cave 4, 4Q11 Paleo Genesis-Exodusl, is written in the same script and contains portions of Genesis 50:26 through Exodus 36.
On the basis of paleography (handwriting analysis), Paleo Exodusm has been dated to 100–25 B.C. Previous studies had suggested a date as early as 225–175 B.C., but the scholars who proposed those dates have since revised their findings. Another Exodus scroll, 4Q17 Exodusf, was copied in about 250 B.C. and may be the oldest extant biblical manuscript.
Paleo Exodusm is significant because it was written in the older (paleo) form of the Hebrew script rather than in the later "square" form adopted from the Aramaic language during the Babylonian captivity. This scroll is also significant because the text is not the same as that of the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible, which forms the basis of the English translations of Exodus. Rather, the text is from the tradition that gave rise to the Samaritan version of Exodus, which contains more material than the Jewish text.
Thus Paleo Exodusm is one of many evidences among the Dead Sea Scrolls that there existed, by the second century B.C. , variant versions of at least some of the books of the Bible. There is no way to know, however, which of these versions, if any, is the earliest. To illustrate, one might presume that Paleo Exodusm is an older version because it is written in a more archaic script. But the oldest Exodus scroll, 4Q17, is written in the square script and is the same as the Masoretic version. Generally speaking, scholars have given up on trying to determine if there exists a so-called authentic or original version of any of the biblical texts. The very fact that the oldest known copies were written centuries after any originals makes such a determination virtually impossible.
The fragment that was on display at the Qumran
exhibit comprises column 38, which is a portion of Exodus 32:10–30. A
translation follows, with the same passage from the King James Version (KJV) in
a parallel column. Subscript numbers in the Paleo Exodusm column
denote lines in the parchment column, while numbers in the KJV column denote
verses. In order that the reader may better compare the texts, I have
accommodated my translation1 to the KJV language. Brackets enclose
text that has been restored from the damaged parchment. Ellipsis points indicate damaged portions of the parchment. To
facilitate a comparison between the texts, I have italicized words that differ
in the two versions.
|4Q22 Paleo Exodusm||KJV|
of th[ee] a great nation
|10 Now therefore let me alone, that my|
wrath may wax hot against them, and
that I may consume them: and I will make
of thee a great nation.
|[and against Aaron the Lo]rd is very
[angry] to destroy him.
2 And Moses pray[ed] in behalf of A[aron . . . ]
3 And Moses be[sou]ght [the Lord his God
and sa]id, Lord, wh[y] doth [thy wr]ath wax
hot 4 against thy people, which [thou hast bro]ught forth . . .
. . . [and] with a might[y] arm?
5 Wheref[ore] should [the Egyptians spe]ak . . .
[to sla]y them in the
mountain[s] . . .
6 . . . thy . . . [wr]ath [and re]pent of this
evil against thy people.
7 . . .
. . . to whom thou swarest
by thine own self
8 . . . the stars of heaven,
and all [this] land
9 . . . [and they shall inher]it2 for eve[r . . . ]
10 [And the Lor]d [repented] o[f . . .]
[. . . to d]o unto his people.
11 . . . [from the mount],
and the two . . .
tables were wri[tten on both] th[eir s]ides
12 . . . other [were] they. . .
. . . Go[d, and
the] writing was the writ[ing] of 13 [Go]d
. . .
And when Joshu[a] heard the noise of the peo[ple
14 as they shout]ed, he sa[i]d . . .
. . .
. . . voice of them that sho[ut 15 for
ma]stery, neither is it the
vo[ice . . . ] . . .
. . .
un]to the [camp . . .]
. . . [lines 17–24 (verses 19b–24) missing]
25 . . . for [Aaron had made them nak]ed . . .
. . .
26 . . . [and] said,
Who . . .
27 . . . Levi
[And he said un]to them, Thus [saith the L]ord [God of
Israel], 28 Put every man . . .
. . . and g[o in and out] from gat[e to gate
throughout the camp] 29 and slay
every man . . .
. . .
30 [And] the children of Levi [did] according to the wor[d
of M]oses: and there fell of the people that [da]y about
[three thousand] 31 men.
For [Mo]ses had s[aid], Consecrate your[selves]3
to day to the Lord, even [every man] 32 upon his son and
upon [his bro]th[er; that he may bestow upon] you
a blessing this day.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses [said]
unto the peo[ple] . . . a great sin:
and now I will go up unto the L[ord] . . .
11 And Moses besought the LORD his God,
and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax
hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of
the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mis-
chief did he bring them out, to slay them in the
mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?
Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this
evil against thy people.
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,
thy servants, to whom thou swarest
by thine own self, and saidst unto them,
I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven,
and all this land that I have spoken of will I give
unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
14 And the LORD repented of the evil
which he thought to do unto his people.
15 And Moses turned, and went down from the mount,
and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand:
the tables were written on both their sides;
on the one side and on the other were they written.
16 And the tables were the work of God, and
the writing was the writing of God,
graven upon the tables.
17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people
as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war
in the camp.
18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for
mastery, neither is it the
voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of
them that sing do I hear.
19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh
unto the camp. . . .
25 And when Moses saw that the people were naked;
(for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among
26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said,
Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. And all
the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of
Israel, Put every man his
sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate
throughout the camp, and slay
every man his brother, and every man his companion, and
every man his neighbour.
28 And the children of Levi did according to the word
of Moses: and there fell of the people that day
about three thousand men.
29 For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves
to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and
upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you
a blessing this day.
30 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said
unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin:
and now I will go up unto the LORD. . . .
The principal difference between these two texts
in column 38 is the additional material in line 1 of Paleo Exodusm,
in which the Lord is angry at not only Israel but also Aaron, who had made the
golden calf. This additional text is found in Deuteronomy 9:20, from which
it may have been borrowed. It is also found in the Samaritan version and in
some manuscripts of the Greek Septuagint translation of Exodus 32:10. It is
possible that the addition of the polemic against Aaron was added to the Exodus
passage because of the enmity between the Samaritan priests and the Jewish
(Aaronic) priests following the return of the Jews from the Babylonian
captivity. Thereafter, the Jews sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem, while
the Samaritans sacrificed atop Mount Gerizim, each group believing that it had
identified the mountain where Abraham had brought Isaac to offer him as a
sacrifice. This conflict is noted in the conversation between Jesus and the
Samaritan woman in John 4:20–3.
1. The translation draws upon the Hebrew transcription published in Patrick W. Skehan, Eugene Ulrich, and Judith E. Sanderson, Qumran Cave 4: Palaeo-Hebrew and Greek Manuscripts, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, vol. 9 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 124.
2. The word it is missing from the Masoretic text, from which the KJV derives (hence it is italicized in the KJV), but the word is present in Paleo Exodusm.
3. The Hebrew idiom literally means "fill your hands."