Ambiguity in Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice: 4Q400, the First Song

  • Annette Evans University of the Free State
Keywords: Song One of Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, Fletcher-Louis, ambiguity, hidden polemic, rhetorical devices


The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice seem to have been intended for communal worship for a group with a strong priestly identity, but ambiguity of terminology with respect to whether angelic or priestly participation is intended is pervasive throughout the text. This article compares examples of ambiguity in terminology for divine beings in the first Song to lexical equivalents in the Hebrew Bible. This introductory Song, 4Q400, appears to be concerned with the establishment of priests to serve in the holy of holies in a context similar to the ancient mythological Divine Council, but the human requirements of repentance, purification, and holiness appear to be central. In view of the multivalent quality of poetry in general, possible alternate readings to those of Carol Newsom are considered. The cumulative effect of various ambiguous indications in the rest of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice is also taken into account. The possibility that the ambiguity is deliberately employed to create fluidity between godlike beings and participants in the liturgy is discussed. The possible significance of such a conclusion is considered in terms of what purpose a deliberately structured fluidity between angelic beings and sectarians could serve, for instance in terms of Fletcher-Louis’s (2002) suggestion that the “theological anthropology†may have ascribed an angelic or divine identity to the righteous.