Parashat Matot-Massei and the Dead Sea Scrolls


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From the Desk of Loren Abraham


Examining the prophetic and messianic implications of the Melchizadek Scroll (11Q13)


This week in the annual cycle of Torah study, we have a double portion and it is also the final portion in sefer B’midbar – the book of Numbers. The opening line of the first portion (Numbers 30:1-2) is addressed only to the heads of the tribes as opposed to the entire community. The opening statement enforces the importance of keeping one’s vows or oaths, i.e., keeping one’s word – having our actions and our words line up with one another. It is another example of God’s desire for His people to reflect His image. He cannot break His word or fail to keep His promises and therefore if we would live our lives consistently with His principals and character, we should try never to break our word either. After this we find a number of statements regarding the authority of a husband over the wife and a father over his unmarried daughter (Numbers 30:3-16) regarding the making of vows. This has often been interpreted to be demeaning to women, in that it allows men to exercise undue control over their wives and children, but actually, the truth is that women, in this case are allowed more freedom then men, in that if they make a hasty and unwise promise or commitment, they need not be bound to it, if after the husband or father learns about it, he feels it is an unwise commitment for them to make. It protects them rather than unfairly restricting them. Furthermore, as I will attempt to demonstrate in this article, this statute may be prophetic in nature by alluding to the protections afforded to the Church - the Bride of Messiah as a result of the authority of the bridegroom, Yeshua the Messiah, to nullify vows or commitments we may have unwisely made.


In the Same portion we later find that the Torah commands the establishment of cities of refuge where a murderer is allowed sanctuary from the punishment of execution by a kinsman of the slain. The text in Numbers 35 describes the number of cities that are designated cities of refuge, and the process by which someone guilty of unintentional murder, can take refuge. Under ancient tribal law says a person would be subject to execution by a close kinsman of the murdered person. The Torah is careful to differentiate one guilty of intentional murder because that person cannot avail themselves of protection from capital punishment. There is a strange clause given, whereby the guilty party would be unable to leave the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest. There is no other commandment in the Torah like this. The closest thing would be the commandment regarding the Jubilee year when people who have sold themselves as bond servants to pay their debts are freed and allowed to return to their families and their home in the year of Jubilee which comes around once every 50 years. The similarity here is that in either case there is a potential for unfairness in the application of these Commandments. A person trapped in the city of refuge for 20 years and another person who had committed unintentional murder only days before, would both would go free on the same day, triggered by the death of the High Priest. The person who had sold themselves into slavery 40 years before the Jubilee year, would go free the same year as someone who sold themselves into slavery only a year before. This hardly seems fair.


According to Bible scholar Dr. Ken Johnson, this unfairness points to a prophetic meaning connected with Messiah. In a recent presentation on one of the the Dead Sea Scrolls known as 11Q Melchizadek (11Q13), Dr. Johnson reviews the text of the scroll and how it identifies Messiah to the enigmatic character from Genesis 14:18, Melchizadek and connects the commandment referred to regarding the Jubilee, when everyone would go free (Leviticus 25) with the commandment for the release of debts on the Schmittah (Deuteronomy 15:2) with the prophesied coming of Messiah (Isaiah 61:1). We know from the gospel account (Luke 4:18) that Yeshua read this text in the Synagogue in Nazereth to declare that He himself was the Messiah and said after the reading, “today in your hearing these words are fulfilled.” I.e., the prophecies regarding the coming of Messiah were fulfilled in Him. Here is a portion of the text from the Melchizadek scroll:


“Moses said, ‘In that year of Jubilee, each of you will be free to return home [Lev 25:13]’ and he described how, saying,” now this is the manner of the release: Let every creditor remit when he has lent his neighbor. He shall not press his neighbor or his brother for repayment, for the LORD’s release has been proclaimed [Deu 15:2}. Its interpretation pertains to the end of days. The captives Moses speaks of are those whom Isaiah says, ’To proclaim freedom to the captives [Isa 61:1]. Its interpretation is that the Lord will assign those freed to the sons of Heaven and the lot of Melchizadek. Even those whose teachers had deliberately hidden and kept secret from the truth about their inheritance through Melchizadek. The lord will cast their lot amid the portions of Melchizadek, who will make them return [repent] and will proclaim freedom to them, to free them from the debt of all their iniquities. This event will take place in the first week of the jubilee that occurs after the ninth Jubilee [AD32].”


The Essenes employed a unique calendar system different from the Lunar calendar employed by the Pharisees and Sadducees of the time, but it is quite clear that according to their calendar, the date of the fulfillment of the prophecy relating to messiah was AD32, i.e., the approximate year of Yeshua's death on the cross. Keep in mind that this document is dated to approx. 200 B.C. The identification of Messiah as Melchizadek is clear and consistent with the New Testament writings. Five times in the New Testament, Jesus is called, directly or indirectly, “a priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 17). The text in Hebrews 5:5-10 presents two examples of the designation of Jesus as High Priest:


“So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.’ In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:5-10 ESV).


But I want to return to the earlier hypothesis that when we see statutes or commandments in the Torah that seem to be unfair, it should be considered prophetic in nature and it is almost certainly a pointer to Messiah. We started by examining the seemingly unfair and possibly sexist commandment regarding the nullification of vows made by a daughter by her father, or of a wife by her husband. How is this commandment potentially unfair? A widowed woman, divorcee or an unmarried woman not living in her father’s house would not enjoy this protection and therefore the unfairness. As we have just learned it is this very potential for unfairness that reveals the prophetic nature of this statute and that points to the Messiah our Bridegroom who protects us from unwise vows and commitments. Whatever sway the powers of this world may hope to hold over us because of ANY unwise agreements we may have made, our redeemer has already delivered us from this debt and obligation.


Sources:

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Melchizedek Dead Sea Scroll Found at Qumran

Melchizedek 11Q13 (11QMelch)

Dr. Ken Johnson: Dead Sea Scrolls 11Q13 from the Defender Conference - Rise 2021, by Subscription only from SkyWatchTV

See also his website, Bible Facts


Blessings and Shalom,

Issachar Community

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