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4Q510–511, also given the title Songs of the Sage or Songs of the Maskil (שירי משכיל "instructor"),[1] is a fragmentary Hebrew-language manuscript of a Jewish magical text of incantation and exorcism in the Dead Sea Scrolls,[2] specifically for protection against a list of demons.[3] It is notable for containing the first clear usage of the Hebrew (or Aramaic) term lilith in relation to a supernatural creature. It is comparable to Aramaic incantation 4Q560 and also 11Q11.[4][5][6]

Physical state of the scrolls[edit]

There are two versions of Songs of the Sage, traditionally titled Songs of the Sagea (4Q510) and Songs of the Sageb (4Q511). The text is highly fragmentary, with portions of only eleven out of twenty-one columns extant. There are seven extant fragments of Songs of the Sagea and 215 of Songs of the Sageb. There is some disagreement about how these fragments should be ordered.[7]

Date and provenance[edit]

Based on paleographical considerations the scroll is usually dated to the late first century BCE. Its terminology indicates that it is a sectarian composition.[8]


The text assumes that the world is populated with evil angels under the dominion of Beliel, a figure (like Satan) of ultimate personified evil. The Instructor of the community is charged with reciting the words of this liturgy to keep these forces at bay: "And I, the Instructor, proclaim His glorious splendor so as to frighten and to te[riffy] all the spirits of the destroying angels, spirits of the bastards, demons, Lilith, howlers, and [desert dweller...] and those which fall upon men without warning to lead them astray from a spirit of understanding.[9]"

Connection to other liturgical texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls[edit]

The text contains several phrases that appear also in other Qumran liturgies, such as Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and Berakhot (4Q286 and 4Q287). Some themes – especially those of the Instructor positioning himself as a lowly and sinful person – appear also in the Thanksgiving Hymns.


  1. ^ Qumran prayer and religious poetry B Nitzan – 1994 "... p. 21. Preface xv ways. From among these, I chose the term "Instructor", except in the case of the title of 4Q510–511, where I retained the Hebrew term: ie, Songs of the Maskil."
  2. ^ Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 10 Brill, The Magnes Press Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi, Leiden/Jerusalem/Jerusalem 1992. pp. viii+ 370. "... The adjacent articles by B. Nitzan and E. Puech are complementary studies of magical texts of incantation and exorcism, 4Q510–511 and HQPsApa iv 4 – v 14."
  3. ^ Hymns and prayers in the Dead Sea Scrolls EG Chazon – The Dead Sea Scrolls After Fifty Years "... The corpus was now seen to encompass prayers of different types that served different functions, from matrimonial celebration (4Q502) and blessings during ritual purification (4Q512), to protection against demons (4Q510–511) and an experience of the heavenly realm ..."
  4. ^ Magic in the Dead Sea Scrolls F.G. Martinez The Metamorphosis of Magic from Late Antiquity 2002 "... These magic and magical texts concern two areas: exorcism, healing and protection against demons (4Q510–511, 4Q560 and 11Q11), and divina ... of the bastards']), besides other more common designations for demons, such as ravaging angels, demons, Lilith, owls, jackals ...
  5. ^ By the Power of Beelzebub: An Aramaic Incantation Formula from Qumran (4Q560) D.L. Penney… – Journal of Biblical Literature, 1994 – JSTOR
  6. ^ M. Baillet, "Cantiques du Sage" [4Q510–511] DJD 7
  7. ^ See H. Stegemann, "Methods for the Reconstruction of Scrolls from Scattered Fragments," in Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. L. H. Schiffman (Sheffield, 1990), pp. 188–220.
  8. ^ Johann Maier, "Songs of the Sage," Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed., Lawrence H. Schiffman and James C. VanderKam (Oxford, 2000), 2:891.
  9. ^ 4Q510 1 4–6, translated in Michael O. Wise, Martin G. Abegg Jr., and Edward M. Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (Harper One, 2005), p. 527.