Hershel Shanks

Ritual baths, or miqva’ot, stood just outside Jerusalem’s wall, in accordance with Biblical law: “If anyone among you has been rendered unclean by a nocturnal emission, he must leave the camp … Toward evening he shall bathe in water, and at sundown he may reenter the camp” (Deuteronomy 23:11–12). (The Essenes regarded Jerusalem as equivalent to the camp.)

A water channel (carved in the stone jutting up from the first step of the righthand bath) led directly from the Essene Quarter to the baths so that the water would not become impure through contact with non-Essenes. The remains of a narrow stone divider (visible on the second step of this bath) separated the steps for unclean men descending into the bath from the stairs for purified people leaving the bath. Similar dividers appear in baths at Qumran.