Subsequent use of Tithe Jars, Archive Jars and Cookie Jars

Written by Michael Moore

February 26, 2017

Subsequent Use of Tithe and Archive Jars

The possibility of a subsequent use of the jars for commodities other than the tithe (such as scrolls) is noted in Mishnah Ma‘aser Sheni IV.11: “Even if a jar was found which was full of produce and on it was written ‘Terumah’, it may yet be considered common produce, because I may assume that last year it was full of produce of heave-offering and was afterward emptied.” This helps to explain why jars that were originally produced to contain priestly tithes might subsequently be buried in the floor or used to carry scrolls. Halakhic purity, necessary for their original function of containing tithes, rendered them likewise suitable for transporting or hiding sacred scrolls (in particular those containing the Divine Name), as long as the purity of the jars was preserved.

Evidence from the Copper Scroll

The term kley dema‘ is mentioned several times in the Copper Scroll. DM‘ is found alone in 3Q15 i 10 and 4QHalakah 5,3. The phrase kley dema‘, designating tithes of herbs and wood, occurs in 3Q15 i 9, iii 9, viii 3; xi 1, xi 4 (2x), xi 10 (2x), xi 14 (2x) and, designating vessels which were wrought of silver and gold, occurs in 3Q15 iii 3, xii 7. The collective phrase k’lyn shel dm‘ is found in 3Q15 v 7. In the Copper Scroll kley dema‘ evidently refers, then, to a specific form of jar associated with the collecting and storing of goods associated with priestly portions.

Dema‘ in other Jewish sources designates tithes in general. In Rabbinic literature the terms terumah and dema‘ are used interchangeably. Cf. YalkEx 351: ‘Terumah has three names: reshit , terumah , and dema‘ .’ Bet dema‘ designates a place in a barn set aside for the terumah.

In the Copper Scroll, no scrolls were listed as being hidden with these jars. The single scroll mentioned in the Copper Scroll as being hidden within a jar is hidden in a qll (3Q15 vi 4-5), not in a kliy dema‘. In references where tithe jars are mentioned along with their contents, they are said to contain products subject to the tithe (generally herbs; cf. 3Q15 xi 1, 4 [2x], 10 [2x], and 14 [2x]. Even when the contents are not explicitly mentioned, the contents, or the jars themselves, are implied as being part of the tithe (3Q15 i 9-10, v 6-7). (Cf. 3Q15 V 6-7 c’lyn dm‘ wctbn ’tslm “Tithe vessels and their accounts with them” seems to indicate that written records would accompany each jar, and denote its contents and their amounts.) This is also the case where gold or silver tithe vessels (or vessels for the tithe) are mentioned. (3Q15 iii 3, xii 7 Kly csf w[cly] zhb shl dm‘). This would make the jars themselves have inherent value, for monetary reasons in the case of silver and gold vessels, and because of their function within the priestly sphere in the case of clay vessels.

(Cf. Mishnah Ma‘aser Sheni IV.10: “If a vessel was found on which was written ‘qorban’, R. Judah says if it was of earthenware, it is itself common and what is in it is Qorban. But if it was of metal it is itself Qorban and what is in it is common. But they said unto him: it is not the custom of people to put what is common into what is Qorban.”)


Are these rather unique jars, then, scroll jars, tithe jars, or both? Based on the foregoing, it would seem that most, if not all, of the tall jars were indeed originally intended to be used by the Levites as tithe jars to gather and transport tithed produce and are described as kly dm‘ in the Copper Scroll. Certain of the shorter cylindrical jars with small handles from Qumran may have been manufactured specifically to contain archival documents. However, since there are also tall jars with small loop handles and short jars without handles, the combination mentioned above may be somewhat coincidental. Of the varieties found at Qumran, the shorter jars with small loop handles, as archive jars, would have been best suited for the purpose of transporting and hiding scrolls, even if their original use had been to contain archival documents. While most cylindrical jars might have been tithe jars, they were certainly not all intended to be scroll jars. A few might have been used as scroll jars though it is unlikely that that was their intended use at their time of manufacture.

To sum up, I would like to use an image from contemporary life to help illustrate the point: One might choose to store buttons in an empty cookie jar, in which case the owner might decide to call the jar a ‘button jar’ because of its contents. However, once the buttons are emptied out, the form of the jar will still be a cookie jar.

You May Also Like…

Gethsemane VR

Gethsemane VR

In the light of the occasion a slight detour from Qumran but not so far from the Temple Mount. A Reflective Stroll...


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *