A PRAYER ABOUT JACOB AND ISRAEL
FROM THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
The Dead Sea Scrolls may be, as is often said, the greatest manuscript discovery in history, but assembling the various fragments into readable texts, and then trying to make sense of them, is no easy task. The texts themselves usually come without titles, and in any case the opening column or more is often missing, so that any inquiry into the text must begin, quite literally, in medias res. What is more, even the surviving parts of the manuscripts have usually been eaten away to some extent, so that lines frequently break off in the middle or contain large gaps. (The case of the scattered Qumran fragments of the Aramaic Levi Document, examined in chapter 5, is altogether representative.) No wonder it is so easy to be misled about what one is reading or to overlook some crucial clue in a broken line somewhere.
Thus, when scholars first sought to make sense of the text designated 4Q369, they made an understandable mistake. The first column of this text is quite fragmentary, but fixing on the mention of the obscure antediluvian figure Mahalalel—known only from Gen. 5:12–17—and on the reference to Mahalalel's father as, apparently, someone else's son earlier in the same line, they concluded that the “someone else” in question was none other than Mahalalel's grandfather, the biblical Enosh (Gen. 5:6–11), and that this first column of broken text must therefore have been concerned principally with him. After all, Enosh was indeed an important figure to the Bible's ancient interpreters,1 one on whom