The Way To Yahuweh
I am Yahuweh – That is My Name
Isaiah 42:8

New Fragment Identification: 4QSama

October 2nd, 2018

During the time when I was producing the Dead Sea Scrolls – Image Sources page, it gave me a great opportunity to check the manuscript images again, especially as they had uploaded some better, more up-to-date images than what was previously available to the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library (LLDSSDL). I will obviously be going back again (and again, and again!), but I was very happy to see, and subsequently identify, a never-before-published fragment of 4QSama (4th Qumran Cave, Samuel Manuscript A), regarding which I will now discuss.

The fragment in question can be seen on the following image at LDSSDL, in the bottom right-hand corner. In the corresponding Discoveries in the Judaean Desert Series Plate (Volume 17, Plate XVIIIa / 18a), this fragment is nowhere to be found. Checking through the rest of the plates in the DJD Volume also wields no results. Its placement on the LLDSSDL image is likely no coincidence, as it will, as shown below, fit exactly where it needs to be with other fragments on the page.

Let’s now have a look at the fragment to which I’ve referred:

It’s a small fragment (manipulated here to look bigger so the letters are clearer), and as can be seen, there’s evidence for around 13 letters, most of them not complete (only 3 out of the 13 letters are visible in their entirety). Nevertheless, there’s enough left of the other 10 letters that we can determine what they were as if we were observing them fully.

Starting from the top line, we have the bottom half of a Gimmel / ג followed by what looks like the bottom half of a Vav / ו. The next two letters are a bit more difficult to decide upon, so we’ll come back to them in a moment. Following these two we have most of a Yod / י, with most of a Final-Mem / ם right after.

The next line we have the remnants of a letter, which at this moment is tricky to determine, but proceeding it we have three clear letters: Lamed / ל, Vav / ו, and Final-Mem / ם. Then we have most of two letters, Aleph / א and Lamed / ל.

Finally on the third line we can just about witness the right-hand line of a letter, but there isn’t enough of it to come to a conclusion as to what letter it could actually be.

To transcribe what can be seen, we get:

] גו??ים [ 1
] לום אל?[ 2
] ? [ 3

If we could identify the two letters we can see on line 1, we could then narrow down just where exactly in Scripture that we might be looking at. There’s only a few letter choices that we could have for these two letters. It’s clear from how they’re written that they’re the exact same one. What therefore are the choices? There are three: Yod / י; Vav / ו; or Zayin / ז. This is good news, as we have examples of both Yod / י and Vav / ו in the fragment itself, and as is manifestly plain, these two letters in question don’t look like how either Yod / י or Vav / ו are written in the fragment. As such, we have here two Zayin’s, giving us the word גוזזים / gozeziym / shearers.

With this in mind, where exactly do we find גוזזים in Scripture? Well at this present moment, the answer is nowhere! Searching through the Masoretic Hebrew Tanakh, one will not find גוזזים written anywhere.

This is where further evidence of Hebrew, and knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls, comes into play. Throughout the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Masoretic Hebrew Tanakh too, we have Hebrew words with different types of spelling; the first is known as defective, which means the word is written with the fewest amount of letters required. The second is known as plene, meaning full, and therefore is the spelling of the exact same word, but with a few more letters used from one of the five vowel-letters in Hebrew: Aleph / א; Yod / י; Hey / ה; Vav / ו; and Ayin / ע. Think of it as not too dissimilar between the British/International English spelling colour, and the North American English spelling color.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, both the Scriptural and non-Scriptural books, show a marked increase in the use of plene spellings of words as opposed to the Hebrew seen in the Masoretic Hebrew Tanakh (although there is some discussion whether it may be the other way around). It is then a distinct likelihood that a plene spelling word in the Dead Sea Scrolls will be found in its defective form in the Masoretic Hebrew Tanakh.

So, if we have גוזזים in its defective form, גזזים (minus the vav / ו), do we find this in the Masoretic Hebrew Tanakh? The answer is now yes, and in three verses: 1 Samuel 25:7; 2 Samuel 13:23 and 2 Samuel 13:24. The texts are as follows:

1 Samuel 25:7:

ועתה שמעתי כי גזזים לך עתה הרעים אשר־לך היו עמנו לא הכלמנום ולא נפקד להם מאומה כל ימי היותם בכרמל

2 Samuel 13:23:

ויהי לשנתים ימים ויהיו גזזים לאבשלום בבעל חצור אשר עם־אפרים ויקרא אבשלום לכל־בני המלך

2 Samuel 13:24:

ויבא אבשלום אל־המלך ויאמר הנה־נא גזזים לעבדך ילך־נא המלך ועבדיו עם־עבדך

I’ve highlighted the instances of where we see גוזזים/גזזים. Now if all we had was גוזזים extant in the fragment, it would be nigh-on impossible to figure out from which verse it came from. Unless there were some other fragments that fit exactly beside the sides of the fragment in question, it could easily come from any of the three places shown above.

Gratefully, we have more than just one word extant. We therefore need to try and find a place in Scripture where not long after the word גוזזים, we have either part of or the whole of a word that ends as לום-, followed by -אל.

Coming straight after 2 Samuel 13:24, we have this in 2 Samuel 13:25:

ויאמר המלך אל אבשלום אל בני אל נא נלך כלנו ולא נכבד עליך ויפרץ בו ולא אבה ללכת ויברכהו

This fits quite well, as it also has the bonus of גוזזים being in v24, more or less where we would expect it to be based on the fragment we’re looking at.

We can then now see that the side of the letter visible next to the first ל on line 2 is from the letter ש / Shin.

The fragment is now able to be transcribed thusly:

 נא] גוזזים [לעבדך 1 New Fragment Image
 אב]שלום אל [בני אל 2
          ] ? [ 3

This fits what is observed very nicely, giving confirmation that this fragment contains text from 2 Samuel 2:24-25. The final letter on the third line is not yet determinable, so we will return to that shortly.

Previous to this fragment identification, the transcription here in 4QSam for 2 Samuel 13:23-26 was as follows:

[23ויהי לש]נתים [ימים ויהיו גוזזים לאבשל]ום בב[על ח]צור אשר [ע]ם
[אפרים וי]קרא [אב]שלום לבנ[י המלך]  24ויבוא אבש[ל]ום אל המלך ויואמר
[הנה נא גוזז]ים לעבדך ילך נ[א המ]לך ועבדיו אל עבדך  [25ו]יאמר המלך
[אל אבשלום אל נא] נלך כל[נו ול]וא נכביד עליך ויפצר בו ולוא א[בה]
[ללכת ויברכהו 26ויואמר אבש]ל[ום ולוא] יל[ך נ]א אמנון אחי [ויו]אמר לו המלך

As can be seen, previously we already had evidence of the ים at the end of גוזזים, so where exactly did this come from?

If we look at the following fragment:

We can see the נתים of לש]נתים] in 13:23 on the first line; קרא of וי]קרא] also in v23 in the second line; then in the third line we can see the tops of several letters, originally identified as the tops of ים from גוזזים in v24. Hence, an earlier transcription as seen above.

With the identification of this new fragment however, we are able to return to this fragment and see that determining the small ink tops of letters in the bottom line are not actually the tops of ים, but rather the tops of ג]וזזי[ם]]. With the better quality image provided by the LLDSSDL, much better transcriptions can be done.

These two fragments therefore form a pair, with the second one seen above being the top of the two.

We now have fully established that this fragment is from 2 Samuel 13:24-25. We do however have yet to ascertain which letter we can just see the top of on the third line in the newly identified fragment.

There are two other pieces for this section that we need to take into account, and these are labelled as fragment 106 (snipped off a bit from the left-hand side, as it’s part of a second column):

This is the fragment that gives us the most of the text that we can transcribe. We will be discounting the top three lines, and concentrating on the subsequent five lines after what is a clear gap (see the complete 4QSama transcription for the full text).

With these fragments, we can transcribe the visible text on these five lines as follows (ignoring the other fragments that fit in this section):

[                                          23 לאבשל]ום בב[על ח]צור אשר [ע]ם
[                  אב]שלום לבנ[י המלך] 24ויבוא אבש[ל]ום אל המלך ויואמר
[                  ] לעבדך ילך נ[א המ]לך ועבדיו אל עבדך [25ו]יאמר המלך
[                         ] נלך כל[נו ול]וא נכביד עליך ויפצר בו ולוא א[ב]ה
[                  26        ]ל[???? ולוא] יל[ך נ]א אמנון אחי [ויו]אמר לו המלך

Next we can place the visible letters from the other two fragments here, and fill out some of gaps:

[23ויהי לש]נתים [ימים ויהיו גוזזים לאבשל]ום בב[על ח]צור אשר [ע]ם
[אפרים וי]קרא [אב]שלום לבנ[י המלך] 24ויבוא אבש[ל]ום אל המלך ויואמר
[הנה נא] גוזזים לעבדך ילך נ[א המ]לך ועבדיו אל עבדך [25ו]יאמר המלך
[אל אב]שלום אל [נא] נלך כל[נו ול]וא נכביד עליך ויפצר בו ולוא א[ב]ה
[26            ]?[????    ]ל[???? ולוא] יל[ך נ]א אמנון אחי [ויו]אמר לו המלך

This then leaves us with most of the missing sections filled in, and the newly identified fragment is fitting in perfectly.

There is, however, quite a few question marks. We’ve yet to identify the top of what letter it is in the new fragment, and there’s also an issue with the original transcription that I shall now discuss.

If we concentrate on the bottom two lines, we have from the prior transcription:

[אל אבשלום אל נא] נלך כל[נו ול]וא נכביד עליך ויפצר בו ולוא א[בה]
[ללכת ויברכהו ויואמר אבש]ל[ום ולוא] יל[ך נ]א אמנון אחי [ויו]אמר לו המלך

One of the issues with this is that the extant ל in fragment 106 is difficult to place in the context of the fragment, and what we have in the later manuscripts of 2 Samuel 13:26. In the transcription above, if we remove the brackets, we can look at how we think the manuscript would’ve looked when it was first written:

אל אבשלום אל נא נלך כלנו ולוא נכביד עליך ויפצר בו ולוא אבה
ללכת ויברכהו ויואמר אבשלום ולוא ילך נא אמנון אחי ויואמר לו המלך

However, this doesn’t really fit in with the exact place of the extant ל in fragment 106. If we take the fragment section in question (letter highlighted):

We have the top of the extant ל in the bottom line just below the ך from נלך in the line above, but the transcription has this extant ל quite a bit further along, beneath the ו from כלנו. Even if we took into account some extra or closer gaps between the words, it is difficult to account for the ל being where the transcription has it. Without anything else to go on, I decided there wasn’t much evidence to think there was a different Hebrew text here, and so went with how it was. Nevertheless, I was never truly happy with it.

However with the identification of this new fragment, there is now evidence to think that we surely have a different Hebrew text here in 2 Samuel 13:25-26. But what exactly is to be proposed? The answer must come through determining the final letter in this new fragment.

Let’s return to our newly identified fragment, followed by our current transcription of the side where it represents:

[הנה נא] גוזזים [
[אל אב]שלום אל [
[            ]?[

If we were to fill this all in, taking into account our current Masoretic Hebrew Text, we should have as follows:

הנה נא גוזזים לעבדך …
אל אבשלום אל נא נלך …
ללכת ויברכהו ויאמר …

The issue here is: exactly what letter here would extend so far into the line above? As can be seen from the other images (and all the others if one looks through the long list on the image sources page), a likely candidate would be the letter ל, but the only word with this in is the first ללכת, which wouldn’t be so far along from the right margin, especially if we were to fit the rest of the words following in the extant space we have.

If we looked at early translations of 2 Samuel 13:25-26, could we find some variant readings that might fit in this section?

The LXX has: του πορευθηναι και ευλογησεν αυτον. και ειπεν Αβεσσαλωμ / … to go, and he blessed him. So Absalom said…

This corresponds with the Masoretic Hebrew word for word, and there’s no evidence of any variants to this (apart from the omission of του before πορευθηναι in Codex Alexandrinus from the 5th century CE, which has no change of meaning). How about the Vulgate?

ire, benedixit ei. Et ait Absalom / to go, he blessed him. So Absalom said…

Bar the omission of the ‘and’ before ‘he blessed’, there’re no variants here in the Vulgate either. Not looking very good for finding an answer in older translations, as they seem to be following the Masoretic Hebrew text that we have.

During the course of history however, people are never truly satisfied with translations from one language to another (I of course am one of them – see TWTY GNT Translation), especially if they find the translation misses some sort of nuance, or they themselves have access to different forms of the underlying text.

This was the situation an early Ekklesia leader found himself in the mid-3rd Century CE. Having what seemed to be different Hebrew versions before him compared to what was seen in the old Greek LXX, Lucian of Antioch (240-312 CE) sought to do a revision of the Greek translation, to bring it closer to the Hebrew versions he himself had access to.

Unfortunately we don’t have a perfect manuscript showcasing Lucian’s version, however there are numerous manuscripts that make reference to ‘Lucianic’ readings in their margins, as well as comments from later Ekklesia Fathers that make reference to Lucian’s revision of the text, and exactly what it entailed.

As such, we have a few variants from Lucian’s version here in 2 Samuel, and one here, at the end of 2 Sam 13:25 (retroverted from Greek to Hebrew):

ויפצר בו ולא אבה המלך ללכת ויברכהו / And he urged him, but the King was not willing to go, so he blessed him.

Lucian either had a text that made it more than obvious it was King David who didn’t want to go, or he expanded the text himself.

Saying that, what of the first option, if we put המלך in our text?

הנה נא גוזזים לעבדך …
אל אבשלום אל נא נלך …
המלך ללכת ויברכהו …

Even with this variant in, it just doesn’t quite fit right with what we can see in the fragments. The ל‘s are just too far away for it to be a viable reading in this manuscript.

One option to look at is this: could the top of the letter we see in this newly identified fragment be from a correction of the text? Whilst not too common in 4QSama (cf. transcription of 1 Sam 10:27-11:1 & 2 Sam 6:2), corrections are used in 4QSama, and all by inserting text superlinearly. This would account for what looks like the possible top of a ל, yet fits absolutely nowhere in our text (that I can determine). The question remains: what letter?

Presuming we’re dealing with the Traditional Hebrew text at the end of 13:25, then the word which this slightly-visible, superlinear letter is from is ויברכהו / and he blessed him. But which letter?

Judging from the visibly part of the letter in the fragment, the most likely candidate is the letter ה.

I therefore propose that the transcription of 4QSama should look as follows here in 2 Samuel 13:25-26:

הנה נא] גוזזים לעבדך …
אל אב]שלום אל [נא] נלך …
ללכת ויברכ]ה[ו 13:26ויאמר …

This fits quite well. Granted, this is only a guesstimated reconstruction, but it’s the best I can offer to explain what can be seen.

I therefore offer a conjectural transcription of all the fragments thus:

[23ויהי לש]נתים [ימים ויהיו גוזזים לאבשל]ום בב[על ח]צור אשר [ע]ם 16
[אפרים וי]קרא [אב]שלום לבנ[י המלך]  24ויבוא אבש[ל]ום אל המלך ויואמר 17
[הנה נא] גוזזים לעבדך ילך נ[א המ]לך ועבדיו אל עבדך  [25ו]יאמר המלך 18
[אל אב]שלום אל [נא] נלך כל[נו ול]וא נכביד עליך ויפצר בו ולוא א[בה] 19
[ללכת ויברכ]ה[ו 26ויאמר ?]ל[? ולוא] יל[ך] נא אמנון אחי [ויו]אמר לו המלך 20

This explains what we can view in all the fragments, and also conforms to the line length.

Another point that speaks against the extant letter being a ל, is that it doesn’t quite go as far above the line as most of the other ל’s in 4QSama do. Most (if not all) of the ל’s in 4QSama extend into the line above (eg1), or almost touch the bottom of the letters above (eg2), or with the case of being near the low-hanging final-mem (ם), the ל goes almost half way into the letter (eg3). I am confident therefore then that the extant letter is not a ל, and so has to be something else.

eg1 eg2 eg3

What remains is one last thing to decide upon: what is to be supposed for our final section to transcribe?

[ללכת ויברכ]ה[ו 26ויאמר ?]ל[? ולוא] יל[ך]

The traditional text just will not fit here: אבשלום is just too long a word to go in this gap, which appears to be the length of around 3-4 letters, and from what I will argue, has to have the ל at the beginning of the word, and nowhere else.

I propose therefore that it is not אבשלום that was written here in 4QSama, but rather למלך / to the King.

Let’s see how this would look in our text (I’ve removed the correction, verses, and brackets so that the word-gaps aren’t affected):

ויהי לשנתים ימים ויהיו גוזזים לאבשלום בבעל חצור אשר עם 16
אפרים ויקרא אבשלום לבני המלך  ויבוא אבשלום אל המלך ויואמר 17
הנה נא גוזזים לעבדך ילך נא המלך ועבדיו אל עבדך  ויאמר המלך 18
אל אבשלום אל נא נלך כלנו ולוא נכביד עליך ויפצר בו ולוא אבה 19
ללכת ויברכו ויואמר למלך ולוא ילך נא אמנון אחי ויואמר לו המלך 20

As can be witnessed, this fits our text almost perfectly. Whilst the letter sizes and gaps are nowhere near a 1:1 ratio with the manuscript itself (as is plain, the scribe wasn’t exactly uber-consistent), we can give some leeway, and this conjecture explains our evidence for extant letters in the manuscript fragments.

The translation would then be (v25-26):

25And the King said to Absalom, “There is no need for all of us to go, so as to not be a burden on you.” Yet he pressed upon him. However he was not willing to go, so he blessed him. 26So he said to the King, “Surely you won’t stop Amnon my brother from going?” But the King replied to him, “…

The final transcription that I will be giving for this section in 4QSama is thus:

[23ויהי לש]נתים [ימים ויהיו גוזזים לאבשל]ום בב[על ח]צור אשר [ע]ם 16
[אפרים וי]קרא [אב]שלום לבנ[י המלך]  24ויבוא אבש[ל]ום אל המלך ויואמר 17
[הנה נא] גוזזים לעבדך ילך נ[א המ]לך ועבדיו אל עבדך  [25ו]יאמר המלך 18
[אל אב]שלום אל [נא] נלך כל[נו ול]וא נכביד עליך ויפצר בו ולוא א[בה] 19
[ללכת ויברכ]ה[ו 26ויואמר] ל[מלך ולוא] יל[ך] נא אמנון אחי [ויו]אמר לו המלך 20

Also will be noticed is the conjecture ויואמר at the start of v26. This is due to the other conjecture, and that ויואמר as opposed to ויאמר would fit better. Both plene and defective forms are observed throughout 4QSama (including in the extant portion – see end of line 17 & 18 above), so this conjecture is hardly abnormal.

There we have it. A new fragment of 4QSama that fits in with some other fragments, and (hopefully) answers some nagging questions concerning the text here. If the conjectures above are accurate (anyone is more than welcome to correct them if they have better ones!), then this is yet another example demonstrating that 4QSama conforms to no known manuscript tradition (it differs from both the LXX and Masoretic Hebrew in numerous places), and may represent a further text-type that was around in Israel before the common era.

Manuscript fragment image links

Fragment 106 (large) Colour Image:

Fragment 106 (large) Black & White Image:

Fragment 106 (medium) Colour Image:

Fragment 106 (medium) Black & White Image:

Fragment 106 (small) Colour Image:

Fragment 106 (small) Black & White Image:

Newly identified fragment Colour Image:

Newly identified fragment Black & White Image: