Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Qumran caves, the lives of a now deceased society has been placed under the microscope. With the amount of work archaeologists and manuscript scholars have committed themselves to accomplish, more information on these Qumranites has been learned. Scholars have been able to determine that they were a Jewish sect, while also learning that they were a Jewish sect and obtaining their Biblical canon. The majority of scholars have associated the sect of Qumran with the Essenes due to their similarities. Though much was not found at the beginning of the excavations concerning women, it has become a matter in which many scholars are seeking more to know. Further archaeological findings have led to knowing more information about the Qumranite women.
Life within Qumran
The scrolls that were discovered in the caves revealed much about the lives of the city’s inhabitants. The Temple Scroll, Rules of Congregation, and the Damascus Document contain the most information on women. These texts cover the matters of marriage, purity, and many more things concerning women. The Rules of Congregation concerns the man who will be admitted into the sect and the life he will live. The matters addressed in the Temple Scroll include that of purity, marriage, sexual relations, and childbirth.
Purity. During the early excavations of Khirbet Qumran there were strange tub-like structures discovered. These structures remained a mystery until they were identified by archaeologist Yigael Yadin. They were identified to be miqva’ot. These miqva’ot were used to undertake the ritual bath to purify oneself. Upon finding these miqva’ot, it was determined that the society living with Qumran was indeed a Jewish sect.
Among all of the Jewish sects, the importance of ritual purity was common. The majority of texts concerning women were those of ritual purity issues. They are the most spoken of since they are considered to be more prone to impurity and may lead to defilement of the holy city. During her menstrual cycle and after childbirth, she is declared ritually impure. Depending on the gender of the child she bares the amount of time she remains impure is determined. Bearing a female child will mean that she was impure for a longer period than if she had borne a male child. When impure, women were sent to a certain district of the city set aside for them in order to prevent them from defiling the city. They were forbidden from entering the Temple City without undergoing a purification ritual beforehand. Women who were captured by soldiers were considered impure. In order to claim her as a wife and admit her within the community, she would have to cut her hair, obtain new clothes, and given the opportunity of mourning her parents. Non Jewish wives were forbidden from the pure food of the people for a period of seven years. The king is also instructed to not marry non-Jews.
Concerning the higher levels of purity, there is...