New Jerusalem Description

The Dead Sea Scrolls: Sanko: New Jerusalem Description

Paraphrase and comments by John Sanko

Paraphrase and notes edited by Alan Humm


New Jerusalem descriptions were written in Aramaic and paralleled Ezekiel xl – xliii, as well as, Revelation xxi. It is thought that a surveyor of the era was a visionary in ancient Judea who provided a detailed picture of the entire city’s dimensions. The parallels this work has to the Hebrew Bible is that both measure the city in detail from east to west escorted by the guidance from a heavenly being. Ezekiel was a prophet that earnestly awaited the restoration of Israel to its once prosperous state. Other parallels like Isaiah and the book of Tobit speak of a rejuvenated city and temple of the Lord. Revelation is less detailed in the actual measuring, but more vivid in depicting the visual heavenliness of the city with references to jewels, gold, and a running crystal stream. Ezekiel and Revelation cover more of the rules governing the Lord’s people and the manner in which the twelve tribes of Israel should divide the city. The purpose to the Qumran community is that of a basic picture of a rewarding place for following the laws of the Lord. Judeaism and Christianity are similar in many basic concepts in their respective scriptures.


Frag. 1 Col. 1

[…]he[1] measured 35 stadia[2] from north to the southern corner and named the gate the gate of Simeon.[3] [From this gate he measured 35 stadia to] the middle gate which was called the gate of Levi. From this gate he measured 35 stadia to the south which was called the gate of Judah. From this gate he measured to the [southeastern] corner and then westwards 35 stadia and called this gate the gate of Joseph. [He measured] 24 stadia from here to the middle and called the gate the gate of Benjamin. From here he measure 24 stadia to the [third] gate and called it the gate of Reuben.
From here [to the western corner he measured 24 stadia] and then Col. 2 [northwards] 35 stadia and called this gate the gate of Issachar. He measured 24 stadia from this gate to the middle and named it the gate of Zebulon. From here he measured 24 stadia to the third gate and called this gate the gate of Gad. From here he measured to the northern corner 35 stadia and then eastwards 35 stadia calling this gate the gate of Dan. He measured from here to the middle 24 stadia and called this gate the gate of Naphtali. From here he to the third gate 24 stadia and called this gate the gate of Asher.
He measured from here to the eastern corner 24 stadia. Then[4] he took me into the city to measure all the city blocks. He measured the length and width of the blocks to be a 51 x 51 rod[5] square [4Q554 + 5Q15, Frag. 1 col. I] (357 cu. on each side). The portico of the street measured 3 rods (21 cu.[6]). He showed me all the measurements of all the blocks. Each street between the blocks measuring 6 rods in width (42 cu.). Two main streets running East to West measured 10 rods (70 cu.) in width with the third street (which runs by the left of the temple) measuring 18 (126 cu.). The two streets running South to North measured 9 rods, 4 cu. in width (67 cu.) with the main one in the middle he measured at 13 rods, 1 cu. (92 cu.). All the city streets are paved of white stone, alabaster and onyx.[7] [vacat] The […][8] eighty posterns were then measured: each 2 rods (14 cu.) with stone jambs measuring 1 rod (7 cu.). He showed me the dimension of the twelve [gates]. Their doors’ widths were 3 rods (21 cu.). Each door had two jambs measuring 1½ rods (10½ cu.). On either side of each of the doors were towers.

Their height and width were 5 rods by 5 (35 cu.). A staircase runs by the inner door, going up to the height of the towers being 5 cu. wide. The towers and the staircases are each 5 rods, 5 cu. square (40 cu. on each side of the door)[….]
He showed me that the porches of the blocks were 2 rods (14 cu.) in width, and the width of the […] measured in cubits. He measured the top of each threshold with its jambs, measuring inside 13 (length) by 10 cu. (width). He then led me inside the vestibule where there was another threshold and door on the right side of the inner wall. The wall was proportional to the outer gate, and measured 4 cu. wide by 7 cu. high. He measured the door to the room, measuring 1 rod in width. Col. II (7 cu.). The length of the entrance was 2 rods (14 cu.), with a height of 2 rods (14 cu.). The corresponding door had the same dimensions as they left the room. To the left he showed me a stairwell that goes around and up, with identical dimensions, 2 rods by 2 (14 cu.). The doors opposite are the same size. A pillar stands in the middle of the staircase that goes up and around [9] which measures 6 by 6 cu. [5Q15 + 4Q555] The staircase, which goes up beside it, measures 4 cu. wide and ascends 2 rods up to [….] He brought me to the interior of the city block and showed me the houses between the gates, fifteen in all. Eight went one direction to the corner gate and seven in another direction to the other gate. The houses were 3 rods (21 cu.) long by 2 rods (14 cu.) wide. They all have the same floor plan, and they are each 2 rods (14 cu.) high. Each has a 2 rod (14 cubit) door in the middle of the house. He measured the interiors of the houses[… ? An interior feature was ?…] 4 cu. in length and 1 rod (7 cu.) high. The site has 19 cu. long and 12 wide. The house has 22 beds, and eleven lattice windows above […]. On the side was an outer gutter[…] the window, 2 cu. high […] thickness and width of the wall […] the platform, 19 cu. wide [and 12] cu. wide. […] their height […] 2 rods (14 cu.) [… a width] of 3 cu. and a length of 10 [cu….] 1½ cu.[…][10]

Frag. 2 Col. 2

[…]its foundation. It was 2 rods (14 cu.) wide and 7 (49 cu.) high. All of it built of electrum and sapphire and chalcedony with beams of gold. It had 1432 towers whose length equaled their width and with heights of 10 rods (70 cu.).

[Note: the text continues with a description of the sacrificial activities in the new temple and a prophecy about the surrounding nations]


[1] The term “he” was meant to be an angel that revealed the New Jerusalem to an unknown person.
[2] A stade is equal to 2/15 of a mile. A cubit can be either 18 or 20 inches (Vermes 568). The portrayal of the new city in size is unrealistic and would not have been able to have been accomplished without divine intervention (WAC 180).
[3] The twelve gates are attributed to the twelve tribes of Israel.
[4] 2Q4 frg. 1 also supports the next couple of sentences.
[5] A rod is 7 cubits.
[6] ‘Cubit’ will be abbreviated to ‘cu.’ throughout.
[7] The jewels and other rarities are meant to express the glory and magnificence of the new city and temple. The purpose of the extravagant description was to provide or depict hope that the Israelites had of a better future.
[8] Martinez conjectures ‘four hundred’ in the missing text for a total of 480 posterns. E.g. 40 x 12. [9] 4Q554 frg. 1 breaks off here.
[10] 4Q555 and 5Q15 frg. 1 break off here.


Martinez, Florentino, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, 2nd ed., Netherlands, Brill, 1996, pp.129-135.
VanderKam, James C., The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, Eerdmans Publishers, Mich., 1994, pp. 163-165.
Stendahl, Krister, The Dead Sea Scrolls And The New Testament, Harper & Bros. Publishers, pp. 187-194.
Gold, Norman, Who Wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls?, Scriber, pp. 361- 383.
Yadin, Yigael, The Message of the Scrolls, Simon & Schuster, pp. 73-80.
Wise, Michael Owen, The Dead Sea Scrolls: a new translation, Harper, San Francisco, 1996, pp. 180- 185.
Vermes, Geza, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Penguin Books, New York, 1987.


prepared for Intro. to the Hebrew Bible
by John Sanko

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