Hershel Shanks

This ritual purification bath, or mikveh (plural, mikva’ot), one of several at Qumran, once contained a pool of water used to purify and sanctify a person for various religious purposes. The flight of stairs, reaching across the full width, and to the bottom, of the pool, takes up a significant proportion of the pool’s volume, an impractical design for a water storage cistern. In view of the Qumran sect’s austere lifestyle, the elegant design, size and number of pools at Qumran argue against their use as water cisterns or for ordinary bathing and in favor of their ritual use. The Manual of Discipline discusses such ritual washing (3:4–5, 9) and even connects the practice with repentance (5:13–14), strongly foreshadowing John the Baptist’s use of water in his “baptism of repentance” (Luke 3:3).