The Qumran Community
---Living in the Desert
“And when these become members of the Community in Israel according to all these rules, they shall separate from the habitation of unjust men and shall go into the wilderness to prepare there the way of Him [= of God]” (Community Rule VIII, 13)
Archaeological finds indicate that most of the sectarians seem to have lived in tents, booths, and, particularly, in caves hewn in the marl terrace opposite the central building and near it. Found in these caves were oil lamps, mezuzot, wooden tools, pottery, and other everyday items. In addition, a network of paths was discovered near some of the caves, probably used by the sectarians on their way to and from to the central building. This is attested by the many nails found along the paths, presumably fallen from their sandals.
The sectarians chose to live in the desert despite the arduous conditions. They considered the desolation of the desert to be a symbol of purity, an eschatological paradise, and a refuge from the corruption of society and culture, in the spirit of the Pentateuch and the Prophets. A life of isolation in the desert was necessary, they believed, to segregate themselves from what they considered an unclean world, and because they believed in their role as heralds of imminent redemption.