Israel Antiquities Authority

Filling a gap in the bible. The Dead Sea Scroll fragment shown here helps explain an otherwise perplexing account in the Hebrew Bible. The traditional text of 1 Samuel 11 begins with the abrupt announcement that Nahash the Ammonite besieged the city of Jabesh-gilead. Nahash has not previously appeared in the story, and he is not identified, as we would expect, as king of the Ammonites. Worse yet, there is no hint of why he would attack Jabesh-gilead. The Dead Sea Scroll version, however, preserves two sentences missing from the traditional Hebrew text. First, it identifies Nahash as king, and it explains that Jabesh-gilead provided sanctuary to seven thousand of Nahash’s enemies, making his attack understandable. Though this is the most dramatic example of a Dead Sea Scroll solving a riddle in the biblical text, it is just one of the Scrolls’ many contributions to Bible studies. One recent Bible translation incorporates no fewer than 230 readings from the scrolls in the Book of First Samuel alone.