The Qumran Library
---Prayers, Hymns, and Thanksgiving Psalms
The profoundly religious, reclusive community living at Qumran devoted all its energies to the worship of God. The sectarians believed that the angels were their companions and that their spiritual level elevated them to the border between the human and the divine. The atmosphere of sanctity that enveloped them is evident from the one hundred biblical psalms and more than two hundred extra-biblical prayers and hymns preserved in the scrolls. Most of the latter were previously unknown; they include prayers for different days (even the End of Days), magical spells, and so forth.
Among this abundance of literary texts is a unique genre of hymns called hodayot or “Thanksgiving Hymns,” on the basis of their fixed opening formula, “I thank Thee, O Lord.” Scholars have divided the eight manuscripts of the Thanksgiving Hymns into two main types: “Hodayot of the Teacher,” in which an individual (the sect’s “Teacher of Righteousness”?) thanks God for rescuing him from Belial (Satan in the sect’s writings) and the forces of evil, and for granting him the intelligence to recount God’s greatness and justice; and “Hodayot of the Community,” hymns concerned with topics relevant to the Community as a whole. Both types extensively employ such terms as “mystery,” “appointed time,” and “light” and express ideas characteristic of the Community’s beliefs, such as divine love and predestination.