4Q Isaiah Pesher b (4Q162)
Pesher or Commentary on the Bible
A Pesher is a kind of commentary on the Bible that was common in the community that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. This kind of commentary is not an attempt to explain what the Bible meant when it was originally written, but rather what it means in the day and age of the commentator, particularly for his own community.
In the Isaiah Pesher or commentary on the book of Isaiah, a verse or verses from Isaiah are quoted. Then the commentary begins, often introduced by the word “pesher,” or “the interpretation of the word…” If we were to write a commentary in this way today we might quote a bible verse and then say, “and the meaning of the verse is…” and go on to show the significance of the verse for our own church, synagogue, or society. This particular manuscript quotes several verses from Isaiah 5 concerning punishment or destruction and applies them to the “arrogant men” who are in Jerusalem.
We know from other scrolls at Qumran that the people who wrote many of the scrolls had serious conflicts and disagreements with the religious leaders in Jerusalem over the proper way to conduct worship in the Temple. Most scholars think that the community of the Dead Sea Scrolls was led by a group of priests who thought that the Jerusalem priests were corrupt. The group at Qumran, therefore, started their own community in which they tried to live pure and righteous lives, away from the corrupting influence of Jerusalem.
Photograph by Bruce and Kenneth Zuckerman, West Semitic Research, in collaboration with Princeton Theological Seminary. Courtesy the Department of Antiquities, Jordan.