Pre-Christian Essenes viewed then contemporary Judaism as condemned “Sons of Darkness” in the epoch of wickedness’s dominion

The Eschatological Age of Evil

The present post-exilic age is called the “epoch of wickedness” (CD 4:10; 12:23; 14:19;
15:7, 10), “the epoch of Israel’s Sin” (CD 20:23), the “epoch of the desolation of the Land [of
Israel]” (CD 5:20), and the “epoch of the punishment of the forefathers” (CD 7:21a). Its chief
characteristic is of a wickedness that escalates until the final conflict between the “sons of
darkness” and the “sons of light.” According to the War Scroll the final age was to be preceded
by a period of tribulation or “birth pangs [of the Messiah]” (1QH 3:7-10),61 which “shall be a
time of salvation for the People of God …” (1QM 1). One such reference to this time of
eschatological woe is in the third hymn of the Thanksgiving Hymns: “7 I was in distress as a
woman in travail with her first-born child, when her pains come upon her, 8 and violent pains
upon her womb, causing writhing in the crucible of the pregnant woman. When children come to

the waves of death; 9 and the one bearing a man suffers in her travail, because in the waves of
death she gives birth to a man-child; and in deadly travail (or birth-pangs of Sheol) there will
break forth 10 from the crucible of the pregnant woman, a wonderful thing; counsel in his might
and the man-child will be delivered from the waves …” (1QH 3:7-10).
Interpreters have compared this text to those “tribulation texts” in the Old Testament (esp.
Isa. 26:16-18) where Israel is described as suffering like a woman in the birth process in the
eschatological “Day of the Lord” (cf. Isa. 13:8; 25:17-18; 66:7-8; Jer. 22:23; 48:41; 50:37; Hos.
13:13; Zeph. 1:14-18; Micah 4:9-10; 5:1[2]).62 The New Testament also uses this figure to
describe the unparalleled experience Israel will face in the “Great Tribulation” (cf. Matt. 24:4-8;
1 Thess. 5:2-3). Such an age is also predicated on the Old Testament teaching of a period of
distress in the End time (cf. Dan. 12:1-2), also known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7),
from which Israel will be delivered into the Messianic Age. In this sense, the Qumran
Community, as the pure Remnant of Israel, was presently suffering tribulations as a sign of the
imminent Great Tribulation in which the Forty Year War would see them bringing forth the
Messiah to wage a priestly war of righteousness (1QM).

Central to this coming age of conflict is the image of eschatological evil rulers and
deceivers (counterparts to the true Messiah(s)). The Dead Sea Sect saw a cosmic conflict
(dualism)63 between the “Angel/Spirit of Truth/Holiness”/Prince of Light” and the “Angel of
Darkness/Spirit of Perversity/of the Pit.” The conflict (dualism) on the human level was between
the members of the Qumran Sect, characterized as the “sons of light” (1QS; 1QM) and “sons of

truth” (1QS; 1QH; 1QM), and their opponents, referred to as the “sons of darkness,”
(1QS; 1QM), “sons of perversity,”(1QS; 1QH), and “sons of the Pit”(CD).64 J. Daniélou has declared
this conflict between the forces of light (good) and darkness (evil) “nothing else but the
leitmotif [“main motive”] of Qumran.”65 These cosmic eschatological desecrators were
mirrored by the conflict between the Sect and two figures: the “Wicked Priest/priests,” and the
“Man of Lies.” We will first consider this earthly dualism and then proceed to the
negative element of this cosmic dualism.

The Eschatological Enemies of Qumran [ The Righteous Israel remnant vs. The Sons of Perversity ]

The image of eschatological enemies is portrayed in significant detail in the apocalyptic Scrolls.
The Sect saw a cosmic or heavenly conflict (dualism)66 between the “Angel/Spirit of
Truth/Holiness”/Prince of Light”) and the “Angel of Darkness/Spirit of Perversity/of the Pit”). The
earthly conflict was between the members of the Sect who characterized themselves as the “sons of
light” (1QS; 1QM) and “sons of truth” (1QS; 1QH; 1QM) and their opponents who they referred to as
the “sons of darkness” (1QS; 1QM), “sons of perversity” (1QS; 1QH), and the “sons of
the Pit” (CD). These eschatological enemies were mirrored by the conflict between the

Sect and two figures: the “Wicked Priest/priests,” and the “Man of Lies.” Let us first consider
this earthly dualism and then proceed to the negative element of this cosmic conflict.

The Figure of Belial [ and the sins of Israel]

The figure of Belial (“worthlessness”) in the New Testament has been considered a
cognomen of Satan (cf. 2 Cor. 6:15; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14), and on this parallel usage
the term has been said to be used for the figure of the Devil at Qumran (cf. 1QS 2:19-25). Since
Temple pollution is one of the three “nets of Belial” according to the Damascus
Document (column iv), this figure is as central in the use of the desecration motif at Qumran as it
was in other apocalyptic literature (e.g., 3 Sibylline Oracles 63-74).
The Rule of the Community clearly describes the present age as the “dominion of Belial” (1QS 2:19).
This rule of Belial (like the influence of the Angel of Darkness, see below) was in accord with the
predestined plan of God, which included his evil actions in bringing about the sin of Israel.
This is evident from the statement in 1QM 13:9-11: “And from former times You [YHWH]
appointed the Prince of Light to help us … and You made Belial to corrupt …” We also find that
the desecration of the cultus by religious syncretism and violations of the purification
laws were the result of Belial’s corruption of the Nation: “And the Levites shall
recite the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their guilty rebellions and
their sins, accomplished under the power of Belial” (1QS 1:22-24). Conversely, the righteous man
is the one who resists the power of Belial, and thereby will be rewarded at the
Restoration. For example, we read in a Qumranic psalm called “The Second Letter on
Works Reckoned as Righteousness” (4Q397-399): “…and to keep you far from evil thoughts
and the counsel of Belial. Then you will rejoice at the End time …(lines 32-33).
Thus, the desecration of the

[Only the Righteous would be saved]

Temple, Land, and exile was part of the cosmic conflict, with the movement being toward an
eschatological restoration at the eschaton, the day of deliverance for the righteous,
yet both positively and negatively with reference to the rule of Belial.
Belial also follows in the developmental progression of typical desecrators, begun in our study
with Pharaoh. For example, in the Damascus Document Belial is portrayed as a ruling
angel in opposition to the Law of God: “At the beginning Moses and Aaron arose through the hand of
the prince of light, but Belial, in his wickedness, raised up Jannes and his brother …” (CD 5:17)
Notice that in this instance, Belial is equated with Pharaoh as a type of divine
opponent as an oppressor of God’s agents (hence God Himself). In the Damascus Document it is stated
that the “Prince of Lights” is directly opposed by Belial (cf. CD 5:18).

[The Other Judaisms were desecrated , corrupt ]

The influence of the Angel of Darkness was explained as one that had produced
desecration historically, and would continue to do so until the final conflict. The
language of cultic pollution, and particularly Temple pollution, runs throughout the
whole of Qumran literature (e.g., the Damascus Document), and one means of assuring the eventual
restoration of the Temple and the Remnant to a purified state was to see this as the
resolution to a cosmic enmity that was greater than any one religious Sect or political regime.
It appears that the author of 1QS 3:13-4:26 felt that the recognition of the existence of an “Angel
of Darkness” resolved the problem of the failure of the post-exilic community to attain proper
purification and holiness and to receive the promised restoration: “And through the Angel
of Darkness all the sons of righteousness stray and all their sins, their faults, their
defilements and their acts of disobedience are caused by his rule,” (1QS 3:22). Thus, if the
problem of desecration was part of a predestined plan (under the rule of evil forces), so must also
the resolution through restoration (under godly forces) be the expected climax of that plan.
In this theology, this evil entity, also called the “Spirit of Perversity,” was seen as
the cause of greed, falsehood, pride, deceit, hypocrisy, lust, and all other evils in the world.
Since a similar role of seduction to evil is given to Belial (see below) we perhaps should not
distinguish the two, however, it may be possible that the Angel of Darkness functions primarily
as a pervasive evil influence,73 much like the Angels of Mastemoth, in
conjunction with Belial, whose figure has supernatural proportions, but is better defined as an
evil adversary to the Community and their Teacher of Righteousness, and ultimately
Messiah (probably = Satan).
….

{ A difference in the conception of Messiah – the suffering servant ]

 

In April 2007 the text of a newly discovered stele from the Dead Sea region was
published. This text of 87 lines written in ink on prepared limestone, is known as “The Gabriel

Revelation” based on the prominent mention of the Angel Gabriel/ Written in the first-century B.C.,
this “Dead Sea scroll in stone” speaks of the resurrection of a national messianic figure who
was slain in battle.87 The unique element in this resurrection is his being called back to life
after three days. Israel Knohl, the Yhezkel Kaufmann Professor of Bible at the Hebrew
University who studied the text has stated its unique contribution to the eschatological thought of
the late Second Temple period and the formation of Christianity:

The text, like other texts of its time (which survived only in later adaptations),
presents a Messiah quite different from the conventional messianic view: not the heroic
son of David, but the suffering son of Joseph, who will die in battle and be resurrected three days
later. The death of the Messiah son of Joseph is, according to this tradition, a necessary
stage in the redemptive process. The sign of the Messiah’s shed blood rising to the
heavens, will hasten God’s descent onto the Mount of Olives to avenge the shed blood
and save His people … Its unusual portrayal of the Messiah sheds new light on Jesus’ act of
self-sacrifice …”88

 

J. Randall Price, Eschatology of Dead Sea Scrolls

 

Belial in the Dead Sea Scrolls

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