Seekers After Smooth Things

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SEEKERS AFTER SMOOTH THINGS , or "Givers of Smooth Interpretations" (Heb. דּוֹרְשֵׁי חֲלָקוֹת, doreshei ḥalakot),a designation given in the *Qumran texts to certain people who followed a different (and presumably less exacting) application of the law than that favored by the Qumran community. At the beginning of the Zadokite Admonition (cd 1:18) those who paid heed to the "man of scoffing," the "spouter of lies," are said to have "given smooth interpretations" (a phrase probably derived from Isa. 30:10, where the rebellious people say to the prophets, "speak unto us smooth things, prophesy delusions" – i.e., tell us what we like to hear). From samples of these "smooth interpretations" given later in the same work (cd 4:19ff.), with special reference to the marriage laws and the rules of purity, it seems most probable that the people referred to are the Pharisees.

In the *Thanksgiving Psalms the tension between the community and the "seekers after smooth things" finds repeated expression: the psalmist has become "a man of dispute for the interpreters of error… a spirit of jealousy to all who seek after smooth things," (1qh 2:14ff.) and he praises God for having "redeemed the soul of the poor man (evyon) from the seekers after smooth things" (1qh 2:32). Those who were formerly his friends and companions have become "interpreters of falsehood and seers of deceit," who (he says) "have devised plans of Belial against me, to make me exchange Thy law, which Thou hast engraved on my heart, for 'smooth things' to be given to Thy people" (1qh 4:10ff.). From this it appears that the Qumran community and the "seekers after smooth things" once belonged to the same group, but the parting of the ways came when the *Teacher of Righteousness received his special revelation and organized his *Yaḥad. The teacher may well be the psalmist whose voice is heard in these passages from the Thanksgiving Psalms. In the Nahum Commentary from Cave Four at Qumran, Demetrius, king of Greece, is said to have "attempted to enter Jerusalem by the counsel of the seekers after smooth things" but met with fearful retribution at the hands of the *Lion of Wrath, who "took vengeance on the seekers after smooth things in that he proceeded to hang them up alive." This is best interpreted as pertaining to the rebellion against Alexander *Yannai in 94–88 b.c.e., during which his insurgent subjects (among whom the Pharisees were prominent) tried to enlist the aid of Demetrius iii (Eukairos) against him. When the rebellion was put down, he crucified 800 of their leaders. The commentator on Nahum plainly does not approve of the "seekers after smooth things" (otherwise he would not have used such a disapproving designation for them), but still less does he approve of the blasphemous atrocity perpetrated by the Lion of Wrath.


A. Dupont-Sommer, Essene Writings from Qumran (1961), notes on passages cited above; C. Rabin, Qumran Studies (1957); Allegro, in: jbl, 75 (1956), 89ff.; Roth, in: Revue de Qumran, 2 (1960), 261ff.

[Frederick Fyvie Bruce]