Book of Nehemiah Found Among the Scrolls

Scroll scholars find first fragment of Nehemiah


A gaunt Nehemiah guards the portal on the west facade of the Church of St. Lazare, in Avallon, central France. In a recent study, scroll scholars Torleif Elgvin and Esther Eshel identified the first known copy of the Book of Nehemiah among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Photo: Foto Marburg/Art Resource, NY.

Anyone familiar with the Dead Sea Scrolls can tell you that portions of nearly every book in the Hebrew Bible are represented in these ancient texts discovered in caves near the Dead Sea.

The only exceptions were the Book of Esther and the Book of Nehemiah;* scholars assumed the latter had been written on the same scroll as the Book of Ezra (as was common) but simply hadn’t survived—until now. In a recent blog post,** Norwegian scroll scholar Torleif Elgvin of Evangelical Lutheran University College in Oslo, Norway, announced that he and colleague Esther Eshel of Bar-Ilan University will be publishing a collection of more than two dozen previously unknown scroll fragments, including the first known fragment of Nehemiah.

The scrolls in the new book come from Qumran Cave 4, Bar-Kokhba caves and Wadi ed-Daliyeh. The publication, Gleanings from the Caves (forthcoming from T&T Clark) will feature enhanced photographs of the scrolls by Bruce Zuckerman and his team,*** as well as “artifacts from the Judean Desert such as a scroll jar, a palm fiber pen, a bronze altar and inkwell.”

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In this free eBook, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why they are important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism when you download our FREE Dead Sea Scrolls eBook.

* See Sidnie White Crawford, “Has Every Book of the Bible Been Found Among the Dead Sea Scrolls?,”Bible Review, October 1996.


*** See Bruce Zuckerman, “Archaeological Views: New Eyeballs on Ancient Texts,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2011.

Read more about Nehemiah in Dorothy D. Resig’s Nehemiah—The Man Behind the Wall

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  • dav says df

  • Ken says

    Noah, I can’t take credit for finding the link. Torleif Elgvin pointed me to it some time back when I was trying to track down the reference Jim VanderKam made to this fragment in DSST2, 49.

  • Noah says

    Very good investigation! These are indeed the same scrolls. In his “NEWS FROM THE SCHØYEN COLLECTION,” Torleif Elgvin says, “The collection includes the first known fragment of Nehemiah, as well as fragments with interesting textual variants of books such as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, 1 Samuel, the Twelve, Ruth, and Proverbs. The fragments were recently rephotographed by Bruce Zuckerman and his team, and we are now scrutinizing the new images.” ( We are all looking forward to the publication of Gleanings from the Caves

  • Ken says

    I assume this fragment is the one described by Charlesworth four years ago at

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