The calendars found in the Qumran scrolls were reckoned not only by months, but also by the rotation of the priestly courses (mishmarot).
The courses would come into Jerusalem for service at the temple for one week, then rotate out as the next group arrived to serve. Qumran texts relied upon this ‘eternal cycle’ not only for their calendar, but also for their chronology and history. Every Sabbath, month, year and feast bore the name of a priestly family.
The priestly rotation required six years before the same group would be serving once again in the same week of the year. The order of the priestly courses was originally determined by lot, and is laid out in 1 Chr. 24:7-18 as follows:
24 appears to be a very significant number. Understanding that the earthly Tabernacle, it artifacts and the order of service are all patterned after the true Tabernacle in Heaven as was shown to Moshe when he was atop the Mount Sinai may help us understand the priestly courses as well. If that pattern holds true, (which I have no reason to doubt that it would), then the mystery of who the 24 elders mentioned in Revelation chapter 4 can then be solved.
Are they the “church” leaders as some suppose? No… Are they saints that were elevated to a high position? No… What about the disciples? Nope…
These elders as they are called appear to have been in service of the Temple since the time of creation or even before. They are not earthly beings, but rather heavenly, and the priestly order that was laid out in 2 Chronicles by David and the high priest Zadok was simply a shadow of the pattern that they set forth.
Understanding the Priestly courses is a vital part of unlocking the mystery of the scrolls.
Below is a link to a chart of the priestly courses and how they fall according to the Dead Sea Scrolls
In the calendar documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls there is a portion 4Q319 that talks about the Jubilee signs or conjunctions. This data can be confusing at first until it is charted out. Having a general understanding of how the priestly courses work is very important at this point, otherwise none of the information contained in those fragments will make any sense.
There is an anomaly that happens at the end of the 3rd Jubilee where the order of Shecaniah is mentioned rather than Mijamin who was the priestly order that headed up the beginning of the 4th Jubilee cycle. From what I can gather scholars have determined this to be a scribal error.
However, I think I figured out the supposed “error” is. When the author states that the “sign of Shecaniah which is the sign of the end of the third jubilee” I don’t think that it’s an error at all. I think it is exactly what he says it is. We (or I) just assumed that that they meant that Shecaniah would have began the next cycle when it is clear that Mijamin does. However, if the Jubilees are the first year of the following cycle then Shecaniah does in fact mark the END of the third jubilee because he serves at the beginning of the 2nd year and half his week would be in the previous year which would be the end of the 3rd Jubilee!
It appears that they were not necessarily consistent regarding whether the “sign” was at the beginning or at the end of the jubilee just that it was a marker. And other than the single mention of Jeshebeab in relation to the jubilee they seem to stick to either Gamul or Shecaniah which I think generates the confusion. If we go off this reasoning then everything lines up and the count of the signs also fits as they didn’t count any priestly lines other than Gamul or Shecaniah, nor did they count the signs of the previous cycle in with the next, with exception to the 3rd jubilee, which is where the confusion started. Why they chose to say it that way rather than just saying “Gamul in the 6th year” is beyond me but either way it’s definitely not in error.
I know this isn’t earth shattering news. Just thought it might add some clarity if anybody ever has to explain that to someone who questions the priestly order and how it functions. People will find anything they can to discredit things they don’t believe so if we can clearly explain these “issues” then it takes away the doubt.
Below is a link to what I have compiled from the fragments of 4Q319 and Mishmarot F (4Q328) which delineates the year into its respective seasons according to the priestly orders, and clearly shows the courses and how the “signs’ fall.
I have also gone through and done some research to establish sabbatical years, and even the timing of the birth of our Messiah. By overlaying this data given through various resources and by scripture with the priestly courses we can with some level of confidence establish where we are in the timeline of history. This is important for several reasons. If we desire to be obedient to the commands of Yah, then we should also seek to observe His land Sabbaths and Jubilees. Without knowing where we are in the pattern we have no way of knowing if we should tend our gardens or not. I know that we are not all in the Kingdom yet, but this doesn’t mean that we should just ignore these basic commands to trust our Heavenly Father with not just our salvation but with our provision of food as well.
This also has other prophetic significance as well. The nominal church preaches an imminent secret rapture (a doctrine that is never found in scripture by the way). They say that nobody will know when it will happen because He will come as a thief in the night quoting 1 Thess 5:2.
What they fail to read is just 2 verse later where it states:
“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therfore let us not sleep, as do other; but let us watch and be sober”
1 Thessalonians 5:4-6
It is interesting to note that the term “children of light” is found all throughout the Dead Sea Scrolls in reference to those who follow the ways of YHVH.
I say all this to say that I believe that we can know general the timing of Messiah’s return. Maybe not the exact day or hour as scripture makes abundantly clear. However, based upon the events that are happening around us, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the general timelines that we are given, I believe its possible to establish a general window that we should be paying very close attention to. I will not get into date setting, or making claims that I know when the end is, because I simply do not. But what I can tell with a high level of confidence is that our time is indeed very short. Nevertheless, we are to be continually waiting and watching, being sober and vigilant so that we are not overtaken as the rest of the world will be while they say “peace and safety”
Below is a link to the data that I have overlaid with the priestly courses showing my theory as to the timing of the birth of our Messiah and the days in which we live.
I go into more detail explaining the information in this document on my page The Birth of our Messiah