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YAḤAD (Heb. יַחַד; "union" or "unity"). This term is used in the Bible most often adverbially in the sense of "together." In some of the *Dead Sea Scrolls it appears as a designation of the group usually identified as the *Qumran sect or community. The Qumran *Community Rule is entitled the "Rule [*serekh] of the yaḥad," and the members of its community are called "men of the yaḥad" (iqs 6:21, etc.; possibly also cd 20:32). Knowledge of this community must be based principally on those Dead Sea Scrolls which can reasonably be recognized as its own documents, along with such evidence from the excavations at Khirbet Qumran as can be correlated with the contents of these documents. The identification of the word yaḥad on an ostracon discovered in 1996 at Qumran, and which would have confirmed its location at Qumran, has been challenged.

Origin and Organization

The origins of the yaḥad appear to be described in the *Damascus Document, which suggests a number of stages (1:3–12). First, a remnant of Israel was allowed by God to survive the Babylonian exile; then these were "visited" by God and a "seedling" (shoresh matta'at) sprouted "to possess the land." After 20 years of "groping the way," God raised for them a "*Teacher of Righteousness" to "guide them in the way of his heart." It is this last stage, under the leadership of the "Teacher," that in the opinion of most scholars accords with the formation of the yaḥad. The earlier stages appear to represent a wider movement that, after the emergence of the yaḥad, no doubt continued, since the Damascus Document (1:13–2:1) suggests that the Teacher's appearance generated conflict with a group led by the "Spouter of Lies" – presumably a polemical reference to a rival leader within the existing group. The death of the moreh ha-yaḥid (perhaps to be emended to moreh hayaḥad) is mentioned in cd 20:14. In the Habakkuk *pesher, no doubt a product of the yaḥad, the "Liar" is mentioned also, though the Teacher is opposed mainly by a "Wicked Priest," a figure thought to be a national leader but absent from the Damascus Document. Because of this and other discrepancies between the accounts, it is impossible to decide why the yaḥad came into existence. Broadly speaking, two possibilities exist: that it consisted originally of the followers of a "Teacher" who split with the leadership of an existing movement; or that the Teacher was the founder of a new movement that separated from the rest of Judaism and later assumed different forms, including the yaḥad. On the former view, inner-sectarian motives may have been instrumental in the formation of the yaḥad – such as the Teacher's claim to be an eschatological leader (see cd 6:11), in which case the existing movement arose for reasons (such as differences over calendar and purity laws) that the yaḥad inherited in addition to its own distinct ideology. On the latter view, the yaḥad is more probably a penitential movement, reacting to the conviction that divine anger was about to befall Israel. Further possible clues might lie in the *Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot), if they could be read autobiographically as compositions of the Teacher, for they represent the author as the persecuted founder of a community, articulating a profound belief in his existential, and probably eschatological, redemption and fellowship with the heavenly beings. The Community Rule itself does not mention the teacher, but contains passages (cols. 8–9) that in the opinion of many scholars, represent the original aims and organization of the yaḥad. On this view, a nucleus of 15 men – three priests and 12 laymen – formed its core. Among the convictions held in these passages is that the land cannot be atoned for by the existing sacrificial cult, which is corrupt; instead a human sanctuary, containing an inner, priestly "holy of holies" must fulfill this function, without sacrifice, by living lives of utter holiness. To this end the members were to segregate from the "sinful" and make a "way in the wilderness" (Isa. 40:3) in order to study the law. This is often interpreted as entailing a physical withdrawal to the Judean Desert, to the west shore of the Dead Sea.

That the yaḥad evolved over its history has long been deduced by scholars on the basis of analysis of the Community Rule, and has been confirmed by the recovery from Cave 4 of editions differing from the Cave 1 text. For example, the "men of the yaḥad" in 1qs 5:1 are "men of the Torah" in 4qse 1:1, while the Cave 4 texts refer only to the authority of the "congregation," but in 1qs, the "sons of Zadok" usually (but not always) hold sway. In addition, the "discourse on the two spirits" in 1qs 3–4 is absent from many of the Cave 4 editions. Reconstructing the growth of this document is complicated by the fact that while literary and structural considerations suggest that the Cave 1 version is the latest, it seems palaeographically to be the earliest. However, the disciplinary rules in 1qs 5–7 appear in all editions and are thus part of the earliest organization of the yaḥad, and in many respects they agree with a similar code in the Cave 4 versions of the Damascus Document. There were two stages in the novitiate, each lasting one year. Those who completed the first year deposited their private property with the community treasurer, but not until the completion of the second year, if the candidate made the grade, was it merged with the common stock. Anyone who "knowingly deceived with regard to property" was excommunicated for one year from "the purity of the many" and had his rations reduced by one quarter. Longer or shorter terms of this excommunication from sharing in the solemn acts of fellowship, together with reductions of rations for a stated period, were the customary penalties for breaches of discipline. For more heinous offenses complete expulsion was laid down. "The many" (ha-rabbim) is the designation of the general membership of the community, while the spiritual leader is called maskil (both terms appear in Daniel 11 and 12). The whole membership met in assembly from time to time. Rules of precedence were laid down with regard to the taking of their seats – first the priests, then the elders, then the others, each in his position – and standing orders were strictly enforced. Anyone who wished to speak might stand up and say, "I have a word to say to 'the many,'" and if he received permission he might speak. Speaking out of turn, interrupting, or behaving indecorously during the session received appropriate punishment.

Religious Practice

The yaḥad appears to have been a celibate, male group. Communal meals, worship, and consultation were regular features of daily life. Such activities could be carried out by any group of ten, provided one of them was a priest. Among other things, it was the priest's privilege to say grace before he and his companions partook of a communal meal. In each group of ten, there was always one (though not always the same one) engaged in the reading and exposition of the Law. The night was divided into three watches, and during each watch one-third of the membership stayed awake to listen to the reading and exposition and to voice the appointed blessings. The community's abstention from common worship at the Temple was primarily due to their belief that such worship was unacceptable to God under the prevailing establishment; but participation would have in any case been difficult since they observed as a matter of religious duty the *calendar prescribed in the Book of Jubilees and not the lunisolar calendar by which the sacred years in the Temple were reckoned. The yaḥad attached great importance to ceremonial washing; the purificatory ablutions which the levitical law prescribes for the priests appear to have been obligatory for all the members. They were not merely initiatory but were performed frequently. Yet it is made clear that ceremonial washing in itself had no cleansing efficacy if a person's heart was not right with God. The washing of the body was acceptable only if it was the outward sign of inward purity.

Eschatological Expectations

Beliefs about the future are not entirely consistent among the writings of the yaḥad, though it certainly believed, whether prompted by scripture or calculation or both, in an imminent divine judgment. The members of the community came to regard themselves not merely as the remnant of Israel but as on one side of a dualistic universe, in which light and darkness (or truth and falsehood) were balanced and opposing forces. Each side comprised both angelic and human beings, and was led by its respective heavenly "prince," and light would finally conquer darkness. Such a developed dualistic doctrine is found only in texts associated with the yaḥad, though dualistic and predestinarian tendencies are also present in the Damascus Document. Zoroastrian influence on this developed dualism is probable. Yet more traditional, Jewish expectations of the future are represented by belief in the coming of a prophet and the "anointed ones of Aaron and Israel" (iqs 9:11). In that new age the anointed priest would be paramount, the lay Messiah being subordinate to him (as in Ezek. 44:3ff.). The Davidic Messiah may be the "star … out of Jacob" (Num. 24:17) to whom reference is made in a number of Qumran documents (cd 7:19; 4qTestimonia; 1qm 11:6), in which case he should be the commander of the Children of Light (see *Sons of *Light) in their end-time struggle against the children of Darkness (depicted in the *War Scroll), though strangely he does not appear, only his shield. In this depiction of this final struggle, which can be assigned to the yaḥad, dualistic and nationalistic perspectives are combined, with the "children of Light" taking on the identity of Israel, and the "children of Darkness" led by the Kittim, almost certainly the Romans. The war would end in the defeat of the nations and victory for "Israel" but would also represent light vanquishing darkness and evil disappearing forever. That cosmic, national, and sectarian perspectives can be merged into a single coherent expectation is hard to imagine, but the War Scroll (in its various editions) may represent an attempt to do just that.

Suggested Identifications

The members of the yaḥad – and those of its parent movement – have been identified at one time or another with Essenes, Zealots, Sicarii, Pharisees, Sadducees, Jewish Christians, and Karaites. The majority verdict favors the Essene identification. Qumran fits the elder Pliny's description of the Essene community, but Josephus and Philo suggest a wider dispersal, which fits better the community of the Damascus Document. There are impressive similarities between the evidence of the Qumran texts and the first-century accounts of the Essenes; yet there are points of difference too. The identification of the community with the Zealots was once supported by several scholars, and Hippolytus says that one branch of the Essenes was known as Zealots (Philosophumena 9:21). Some scrolls possibly originating at Qumran were found at Masada. Qumran itself was apparently attacked by the Romans during the war of 66–70; and the War Scroll envisages a battle that involved Rome. But there are links with Pharisees in the extension of levitical purity beyond the priesthood and in devotion to Torah observance, while connections with Sadducees might be seen in some of the halakhah preserved among the Scrolls. It remains possible that the yaḥad was none of these, but an otherwise unknown sect among many movements that may have arisen during one of the most turbulent religious and political eras in Jewish history, between the Maccabean revolt and the war with Rome.

add. bibliography:

S. Talmon, "The Sectarian yxd – A Biblical Noun," in: vt, 3 (1953), 133–40; A.R.C. Leaney, The Rule of Qumran and Its Meaning (1966); S. Metso, The Textual Development of the Qumran Community Rule (1997); J.H. Charlesworth (ed.), The Rule of the Community and Related Documents (1994); F.M. Cross and E. Eshel, "Ostraca from Khirbet Qumran," in: iej, 47 (1997), 17–28; A. Yardeni, "A Draft of a Deed on an Ostracon from Khirbet Qumran," in: iej, 47 (1997), 233–37; P.R. Davies, Behind the Essenes (1987), 87–105; idem, Sects and Scrolls (1966), 139–50.

[Frederick Fyvie Bruce /

Philip R. Davies (2nd ed.)]