In January of 1947 a handful of goats had climbed too high and had become dangerously positioned on the mountains cliffs. Their shepherd, concerned for their safety, ascended the face of the cliff to save them from peril. While on his climb he discovered two small cave openings. Curious, he threw a stone inside and was surprised as he heard a cracking sound. His thoughts, “What could possibly be in such a remote cave?” And in his reasoning he came to one conclusion, “Treasure!”
Excited with the possibilities of becoming rich, the young herder called down to his two cousins who had been watching his ascent. The enthusiasm in his voice prompted them to make the climb to see what all the excitement was about. After hearing his story they too grew excited, “It must be treasure, so high, so remote. Someone took great care to hide whatever it is here so what else could it be?” Their excitement grew as they began to think that their goat herding days may be over. However, the sun was beginning to set and they needed to collect their goats and return to their tents. So they agreed to come back in the morning to search for their treasure.
Early the next morning, the youngest of the three woke before the others and headed to the cave. Once inside he saw that the cave floor was covered in debris and broken pottery. Then he saw seven narrow jars standing against the caves walls, some still having their covers in place. Quickly he approached the jars and began to explored what might be inside each of them. The first jar held a bundle of parchments green with age “no treasure here,” so he moved on to the next. Lifting its lid he eagerly peered inside but again all he found was the same bundle of greenish parchments. One by one he explored each jar, and sadly he discovered that they all held the same as the one before. No gold, no jewels, no treasure. With dashed hopes the young Bedouin boy left the cave and returned to share the disheartening news with his cousins.
No gold, no jewels, no treasure. But this is not how the story ends.
The boys decided to removed the greenish bundles of parchments from the dark forsaken cave in hopes to sell them. For a period of time, the bundles hung from a pole inside their tent before they were able to sell two to antiquities dealers in Bethlehem. Then four were sold to a man named Athanasius Samuel at St. Mark’s Monastery in Old City of Jerusalem. Then scholars from the American School of Oriental Research heard about them and visited the Monastery to examined them for their antiquity. What they discovered would spark an expedition and a visit to the cave found by the Bedouin boys. For what they discovered would be recognized as the greatest manuscript treasure that has ever been found. The first seven manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In 1949 an official archaeological expedition begun in the Qumran area. They discovered ten additional caves all containing jars filled with scrolls. Over six hundred scrolls and thousands of fragments have been discovered in the 11 caves of the Qumran and one of the most important contributions of the Dead Sea Scrolls is the numerous Biblical manuscripts which have been discovered. Fragments of every Biblical book except Esther have been found.
Until the, the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures were copies from the 9th and 10th centuries AD by a group of Jewish scribes called the Massoretes. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, mankind now have manuscripts a thousand years older than those. And the most amazing truth is that the 9 and 10th centuries AD manuscripts are almost identical to the Dead Sea Scrolls! This is a great testament of the meticulous care that the Jewish scribes passed down through the centuries in copying the sacred Scriptures accurately. Because of this we can have confidence in knowing that the Old Testament Scriptures faithfully represent the words given to Moses, David and the prophets.
Who would have thought that goats grazing on the edge of a mountains cliff would lead the way in discovering a priceless treasure? Who would have thought that three young Bedouin boys would be used to bring that discovery into the light? And who would have thought that manuscripts written around 125 BC through AD 68 would have been preserved for our 2013 eyes to see?