This work is a collection of legal dicta, including among other things laws about the proper observance of the Sabbath, the tithing of agricultural produce, what portions of produce priests were to receive from the laity, proper sacrifice, and marriage. 'These laws are extremely revealing for anyone interested in the late Second-Temple period and Palestine in the time of Jesus, for they are a window into certain segments of society, revealing how people of the time actually lived their lives.
Whereas portions of the Commentary on the Law of Moses do little more than quote relevant biblical texts, others legislate for situations not explicitly recognized by the authors of the Bible. We learn here for example, that if a priest had a daughter who turned to prostitution, she could no longer eat at his table. We learn that in the author's system, priests were to receive the fourth-year fruit from newly planted fruit trees, a requirement that contrasts with rabbinic law, wherein the grower took the fruit to Jerusalem and ate it there before God. The commentary agrees with the stipulation on the same topic in the Sectarian Manfesto (text 84); further, the Temple Scroll (text 131 colt 60), the Damascus Covenant (text 1), and the book of Jubilees (7:36) all agree with the position of the commentary.
So this law serves well to illustrate two general principles that apply to the legal materials among the scrolls: (1) the laws tend to be stricter than those of he rabbis where the same topics are addressed and, as the rabbinic laws go back in some cases to the Pharisees, the laws here are presumably part of a system stricter than that of the contemporary Pharisees; and (2) the legal materials of the 3 scrolls seem to represent a single school of thought. That is to say, whenever different Dead Sea Scrolls address the same or similar topics, they take the identical general approach, one particularly favorable to the interests of the priesthood. While the different scroll writers sometimes disagree among themselves, their disagreement is incidental, not systematic. The Dead Sea Scrolls therefore represent a school of legal thought different from and competing with the Pharisaic approach. That such should be the case is hardly surprising given the attitude toward the Pharisees manifested in nonlegal, historical writings among the scrolls. As discussed in the Introduction, for the movement behind the scrolls, the Pharisees were public enemy number one.
Sabbath Laws. Compare the Damascus Document, Geniza text col. 10 (text 1).
Frag. 1 1[ . . . f]ive [ . . . ] 2[ . . . ] all [ . . . ] 3[ . . . ] cattle, and to draw water trom a well, a drawing L . . . Let no] man go out from his place for the entire entire Sabbath, 5nor from the house to the ou[tsi]de [ . . . ] to expound or to read the Book aloud on [the Sabba]th 6[ . . . to] profane [ . . . to make] oneself impure in the fle[sh] on [the] Sabbath day 7[ . . . ] on the sixth d[a]y, ba[re] flesh [ . . . ]
Laws concerning damage done by beasts (Exod. 21:19, 28-29).
Frag. 4 1[ . . . ] for the iniquity [ . . . ] 2[ . . . ] he shall compensate for [his] loss of time [and assure his ful1] recovery. 3[If a bull gores a man or] a woman, then the bul1 shall be put to death, they shall stone it. 4[ . . . If the ox] has been accustomed to gore in the past 5[ . . . and it kills a ma]n or a woman, 6[then the ox shall be stoned and its owner put to death as well.... a ma]n [ . . . ]
Laws concerning the first fruits of agricultural produce (Exod. 22:29).
Frag. 5 1[ . . . grain, and fresh wi]ne and fresh oil, unless [ . . . You shall bring] 2the choicest of the first fruits and all the produce. Let no man delay, for [ . . . ] 3is . . . ]. The choicest of the produce is the grain. The juice [is And the bread] 4of the first fruits is the leavened bread which they shall bring [on the d]ay of the [first fruits]; 5these are the first fruits. Let no m[a]n eat the new wheat [ . . . ] 6until the day the bread of the first fruits is brought to [the . . . ]
Laws concerning the redemption of the first born of man and beast (Num. 18:15, 17) and first harvest of the fruit trees (Lev. 19:23-25).
Frag. 6 1[ . . . ] 2[ . . . fe]wness. Let no [man] decre[ase its price . . . ] 3[ . . . ] the tenth for [ . . . ] 4[ . . . the firstborn of m]an and the unclean animal [ . . . ] 5[ . . . you shall redeem] the first born of man and the unclean animal 6[ . . . also the first born of the o]x [and] the sheep. And as for the Temple, from [ . . . ] 7[ . . . i]t is as the firstborn, and the produce of a tree 8[ . . . every fruit tree, the fig, the pome]granate, and the olive, in the fourth year 9[all its fruit shall be holy . . . ] the offering, every devoted thing [shall be] for the priest.
Laws concerning the proper slaughter and sacrfice of beasts (Exod. 22:29~30; Lev. 7:24; 22:8; Deut. 14:21J.
Frag. 7 1[ . . . the] seventh [day. Let n]o man [eat] an ox, a lamb, or a goat that has not completed [seven] 2[days with] its mother, [tha]t is, in the wom[b] of its mother. And let no man eat its flesh because [ . . . ] 3[ . . . ] is [ . . . ] Let no man eat the flesh of an animal [which dies] 4[ . . . carca]sses or that torn by beasts, that which is not alive, for 5[ . . . take the flesh] to [se]ll to the foreigner, and use its fat to ma[ke . . . ] 6[ . . . ] and to [sa]crifice it (the fat?) from it, he shall [certainly] be c[ut offfrom his people . . . ] 7[ . . . ]
Laws concerning unclean animals (Lev. 27:11) and devoted fields (Lev. 27:27-28).
Frag. 9 1[ . . . If it concerns] the unclean animal that 2[may not be brought as an offering to the Lord, you may not redeem it. And the devoted field shall be the property 3[of the city. (?) . . . redemptio]n for his life, to pay [ . . . ]
Laws concerning properly set aside for the priests (Lev. 27:21).
Frag. l0 1[ . . . ] it shall be [most ho1y [ . . . ] 2[ . . . and] he shall set it apart for the priest to pass it [ . . . ] 3[ . . . And you shall be3 as a priest for him. And the man wh[o . . . ] 4[Let no] man eat [from the holy gifts who . . .]
Laws concerning those who might eat the priest's portion (Lev. 21:7-9, 14).
Frag. 11 1[ . . . a priest's wife shall ea]t her husband's bread 2[ . . . children of his household] shall eat his bread. Only a prostitute 3[or a harlot may not eat the holy bread....] all the treachery which a man might practice 4[against the LORD ... ] to eat, for it is an abomination 5[to the Lord.... whoever does not have a] master or next of kin . . .
Laws concerning proper marriage (Lev.-18:6-19; 20:11, 17, 19; Deut. 23:1). Note the attack on niece marriage in 1. 3; such marriages were encouraged by the Pharisees. Compare these lines to col. 66 of the Temple Scroll (text 131).
Frag. 12 1Concerning nakedness: [ . . . ] 2Let no man take the w[ife of his father, let him not uncover the skirt of his father. Let no one take] 3his brothers daughter or the daughter of [his] si[ster . . . Let no] man [uncover] 4the nakedness of [his] mo[thers] sister [ . . . no woman shall be the wife of the brother of] 5her father or the brother of her mother [ . . . ] 6Let no man uncover the nakedness of this mother . . . ] 7Let no man take his daughter [ . . . ]
Laws concerning expiation for the unknown murderer (Deut. 21:1-9). The elders of the nearest town were to sacrifice a hefer to bear the blood guilt that would otherwise attach to the town.
Frag. 13 1[ . . . a ma]n with his neighbor [ . . . ] 2[ . . . under] the tree as uncleanness 3[ . . . if one sahould find] a corpse that is lying in [a field . . . ] 4[ . . . and they shall break the heifer's neck there in the wad]i in return for the life [of the slain . . . 3 5[ . . . ] it is a substitution which is put to death for [the slain . . ] 6[ . . . ] everyone who has no soul within him is dead, [he must be buried] in a g[rave . . . ]