The Words of Moses (1Q22)
These fragments from Qumran belong to a kind of literature called the Testament or Farewell Discourse. A Testament represents the “last words” of a famous person in Israel to their descendants or followers. Testaments are a little bit like the modern “Last Will and Testament,” except, instead of containing instructions for the distribution of money and assets, they give predictions of the future, warnings of dangers to come, and instructions on behavior. Many of these Testaments were actually written long after the biblical characters themselves had died, during what is often called the “Intertestamental” period. That was the period of time between the writing of the Hebrew scriptures (called by Christians the Old Testament) and the Christian New Testament. Some Testaments have come down to us from sources other than the Dead Sea Scrolls, in Ethiopic, Syriac, Greek, and Coptic translations.
In the Words of Moses, God commands Moses to interpret the law for the leaders of the community, and at the same time predicts that the people will fall away from the worship of God. Moses, in turn, commands Eleazar the priest, son of Aaron, and Joshua, son of Nun, to speak the words of the law. Moses then goes on to order the people to choose for themselves men who can interpret the law for them, and himself repeats some of the laws. He warns them that they are to be very careful in obeying the law and keeping all of the precepts that they have been given.