The Dead Sea ("Sea of the Arabah," according to Dead Sea, from Bible Places) is a shrinking inland lake, fed by the Jordan River, that is so saline as to be lifeless. It is the lowest place on earth. Jewish Virtual Library approximates its dimensions as 1,300 feet (400 meters) below sea level, 34 miles (55 km.) long and between 11 miles (18 km.) and 2 miles (3 km.) in width, and 1,400 feet (430 m.) deep.
The Dead Sea is located between modern Jordan and Israel, and in the ancient world served as a barrier to Judah partially blocking entry from the east.
In 1947, Bedouin shepherds near the Dead Sea discovered a cave holding jars in which there were documents that proved to have been written in the late Second Temple period, which included the time in which Jesus lived. The scroll discovery story (told in The Dead Sea Scrolls -- What They Really Say, by Hershel Shanks, from the Biblical Archaeology Society) goes that one of the two Bedouins, Mohammad edh-Dhib ("the wolf") found the cave while hunting for a lost sheep. Thinking to scare the errant sheep out of a cave the shepherd thought the sheep had wandered into, he tossed a rock into it. He then heard the sound of cracking pottery and went inside to investigate. What he found was pottery jars holding scrolls -- the first seven Dead Sea Scrolls.
Although written late, the Dead Sea documents were much older than any other surviving manuscripts from Hebrew scriptures, according to the Library of Congress article on The World of the Scrolls.
For a bibliography of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), see Critical Editions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, provided by Biblical scholar Tyler F. Williams.
The Library of Congress provides the following translation of the Community Rule scroll:
"And according to his insight he shall admit him. In this way both his love and his hatred. No man shall argue or quarrel with the men of perdition. He shall keep his council in secrecy in the midst of the men of deceit and admonish with knowledge, truth and righteous commandment those of chosen conduct, each according to his spiritual quality and according to the norm of time. He shall guide them with knowledge and instruct them in the mysteries of wonder and truth in the midst of the members of the community, so that they shall behave decently with one another in all that has been revealed to them. That is the time for studying the Torah (lit. clearing the way) in the wilderness. He shall instruct them to do all that is required at that time, and to separate from all those who have not turned aside from all deceit.
These are the norms of conduct for the Master in those times with respect to his loving and to his everlasting hating of the men of perdition in a spirit of secrecy. He shall leave to them property and wealth and earnings like a slave to his lord, (showing) humility before the one who rules over him. He shall be zealous concerning the Law and be prepared for the Day of Revenge.
He shall perform the will [of God] in all his deeds and in all strength as He has commanded. He shall freely delight in all that befalls him, and shall desire nothing except God's will..."
Transcription and translation by ancient Hebrew and Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Elisha Qimron
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