The Exodus Scroll
EXODUS 10:10 TO 16:15.. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel.
Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
Hebrew manuscript, ink on vellum. 590 x 600 mm (approx. 23 x 23 1⁄2 in.). Written in an Oriental (Middle Eastern) square script hanging below scored horizontal lines, in five columns, 71 lines each (except the fourth, in 72 lines). Sewing stations for adjacent sheets visible at right and left margins. Upper and lower margins cropped without loss of text; a few holes affecting single letters, some wear and stains, restoration to blank margin. A well-preserved and extremely rare scroll sheet.
“And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.”
— Exodus 12:14
This extraordinary manuscript is one of the three earliest known Torah scroll sheets and one of the most important ancient Hebrew scrolls in the world after the Dead Sea Scrolls. The only other Torah scroll sheets of this date or earlier are the Jews’ College Scroll (Exodus 9:18-13:2) and its twin, the virtually unreadable Duke University fragment by the same scribe (Exodus 13:19-16:1). As the Dead Sea Scrolls are extremely fragmentary for Exodus, the present scroll is the most complete, and the only obtainable, early Exodus manuscript scroll sheet.
This cornerstone relic of Judeo-Christian religion and history contains the story of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. This evocative relic tells the story of God’s deliverance of the Jews from bondage and their emergence as a free people. The text of the manuscript begins in Egypt with the plague of locusts, continues through the slaying of the first-born of Egypt, and then details God’s requirements for the festival of Passover. The text continues through the flight from Egypt, the rescue at the Red Sea, the singing of the Song of the Sea to celebrate their deliverance, and the appearance of manna.
This is the oldest known scroll with the Masoretic Text of the Exodus saga from the plagues through the Song of the Sea. The manuscript dates to the height of the Masoretic tradition, having been written at the time of the 10th-century Aleppo Codex (now missing Genesis through Deuteronomy) and the 11th-century Leningrad Codex. The Dead Sea Scrolls often show numerous similarities to the Masoretic Text, but many of them also show significant differences. The present manuscript scroll is crucial testimony to the transmission of the Hebrew text that led directly to the Protestant Bible.
Apart from the Jew’s College Scroll and its fragmentary twin owned by Duke University (on exhibition at the Israel Museum), this is the earliest known Hebrew Biblical scroll sheet other than the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls include no reasonably complete version of this all-important Biblical text.
This is one of the foremost relics of monotheistic peoples. The vast majority of early Biblical manuscripts remaining in private hands are tiny fragments. The present manuscript is a large and striking exhibition piece presenting the Exodus story from the plagues through deliverance from Egypt and the appearance of manna from heaven.
Provenance. Manuscript provenance note on the verso of the sheet describing its presentation in Tishrei/ September 1863 by Shlomo Beim (1817-1867) the Karaite hazzan of Chufut-Kale (“Rock of the Jews”), in the Crimea to the Grand Duke Constantine Nicolayevitch (1827- 1892; brother of the Tzar Alexander II) and his “exalted” daughter Alexandra Yosifovna, on the occasion of their visit to Chufut-Kale.