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Psalm 89 in the Dead Sea Scrolls:
Qumran Reflections on the Coming Messiah
and the “True Service” of the Temple

David J. Larsen

Presented at

The 2022 Temple on Mount Zion Conference

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Sponsored by The Interpreter Foundation, BYU College of Humanities, and BYU Religious Education


Several compositions found among the Dead Sea Scrolls indicate that the authors saw their community as a “replacement temple” for the “defiled” sanctuary in Jerusalem and that their communal rituals were the “true service” of the temple maintained exclusively by their priests in the wilderness. These texts suggest that this “true” temple service may have included belief in human access to the divine council in the celestial temple of God and liturgical communion with angelic beings as they participated together in the heavenly worship. This paper will argue that these concepts were informed by the traditions and practices of the Jerusalem Temple itself, as can be understood from numerous Second Temple texts, and also the biblical Psalms. Following the premise that many of the Psalms were used in or informed by temple worship, this research will demonstrate the importance of the Psalms to the Qumran community and how some of them (Psalm 89 in particular) contributed to the community’s understanding of “true” temple worship.

Furthermore, a text known as 4QPsx (or 4QPs89) contains a version of Psalm 89 that is substantially different than what is found in our Bibles. In this text, the psalm has been reworked and adapted in a way that is eschatological in perspective, specifically envisioning a messianic figure elected by God to assist the chosen community in the End Times. Much like Nephi’s method of “likening” the Scriptures to himself and his community, the author of 4QPsx reworks and interprets Scripture in a way that makes it more clearly relevant to his own beliefs and situation.



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