Do the Dead Sea Scrolls Preserve a Better Version of 1 Samuel?

One of the most significant discoveries in the cache of texts discovered in the caves near the Qumran settlement is the scroll containing 1 Samuel. This scroll, which is several centuries older than the oldest 1 Samuel texts scholars possessed prior to the DSS discovery, contains a noteworthy passage at the end of chapter ten. Most modern translations, which are based off of the Masoretic text, reads as follows:

(10:27) But certain worthless men said, “How can this one deliver us?” And they despised him and did not bring him any present. But he kept silent. (11:1) Now Nahash the Ammonite came up and besieged Jabesh-gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a covenant with us and we will serve you.”

However, the scroll in the DSS which records 1 Samuel adds the italicized text as follows:

But certain worthless men said, “How can this one deliver us?” And they despised him and did not bring him any present. But he kept silent.   Now Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been grievously oppressing the Gadites and the Reubenites. He would gouge out the right eye of each of them and would not grant Israel a deliverer. No one was left of the Israelites across the Jordan whose right eye Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had not gouged out. But there were seven thousand men who had escaped from the Ammonites and had entered Jabesh-gilead.   Now Nahash the Ammonite came up and besieged Jabesh-gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a covenant with us and we will serve you.”

As you can see, there is a section between what we call 1 Sam, 10:27 and 11:1 which was preserved in the DSS which was unknown to the Masorites. This small passage, known as 4QS1, seems to be the appropriate transition between the end of 1 Sam. 10 and the beginning of 1 Sam. 11.

What is even more interesting is that Josephus seems to be aware of this passage when he recounts the Antiquities of the Jews (6:68-71). The text is, however, absent from the LXX, which itself was forced to add the words “about a month later” in order to smooth over the rough transition between 1 Sam. 10:27 and 11:1.

Thus far (correct me if I am mistaken) it seems that the only translation which has included the lost passage into the main body of Scriptural text is the NRSV. Others have moved it to a footnote (Holman, TNIV, JPS, NLT).

DSS 4QSambHow have scholars of 1 Samuel addressed this issue? Ralph W. Klein, in his contribution to the Word Biblical Commentary includes the passage and views it as a restoration of the original text (p. 103). In the New Interpreter’s Bible, Bruce C. Birch offers commentary on the passage as if it was a legitimate as the rest of 1 Samuel’s text (pp. 1053-4). He also points out that the NIV has chosen not to include it in their translation.

My question is this: if the DSS have truly preserved a passage of 1 Samuel which was accidentally lost before the Masorites composed their text, should modern translations start including it?

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Do the Dead Sea Scrolls Preserve a Better Version of 1 Samuel?

  1. Very interesting. I would go with the footnote idea. I think it is possible it was a part of the original but not enough manuscript evidence to fully insert.
    For those hung up on infallibility this could be very difficult. For me it is interesting.

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