Community, Alterity, and Space in the Qumran Covenant Curses

Dead Sea Discoveries


1QS 2 recounts a ritual in which the community convenes and shares in the annual recitation of blessings and curses for the purpose of reaffirming its communal, ritual boundaries as it is beset on all sides by darkness and transgressive ways. This group needs purifying through the ejection of the morally impure, those whose actions are judged to be ‘out of place.’ Conversely, in 4QBerakhot, the entirety of divinely ordered creation is cited in the blessing of God by the performative community in the heavenly throne room. This latter tradition understands those capable of this heavenly benediction as being sufficiently pure to stand in God’s presence, while Belial and those of his lot are already consigned to their fate in the pit. Thus, given the entirely different ideals and resultant construction of figural space in these two traditions, we are forced to question the equation of their performative contexts.


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