Isaiah 55:11-12 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
As we continue into the historical and prophetic significance of the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, I take you back to 1948. Professor Eleazar Sukenik discovered that Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel, the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem purchased several of the Dead Sea scrolls. So Professor Sukenik visited the archbishop and took several photos of the scrolls which were then sent to William Albright, a Biblical archaeologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Albright’s reply arrived on May 15, 1948: “My heartiest congratulations on the greatest manuscript discovery of modern times! There is no doubt in my mind that the script is more archaic than that of the Nash papyrus…I should prefer a date around 100 B.C.!...What an absolutely incredible find!...”
Notice the date of Albright’s reply! On May 14, 1948, the British mandate ended at midnight. Earlier that day, David Ben-Gurion who would later become Israel’s first prime minister, announced Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
Professor Sukenik failed to purchase the scrolls from the archbishop at the time, as the cleric believed he would get a better price. Later, we discover that Sukenik wrote in his journal, “Thus the Jewish people have lost a precious heritage.” Sukenik passed away in 1953.
Later in 1949, archbishop Samuel traveled to the United States with the scrolls to find a buyer. They went on display at the Library of Congress, and then at other museums and art galleries in the West. However, interest in the scrolls waned and there were no interested buyers for the ancient documents.
Years passed until an ad was placed in the Wall Street Journal in 1954.
“The Four Dead Sea Scrolls, Biblical manuscripts dating back to at least 200 BCE are for sale. This would be an ideal gift to an educational or religious institution by an individual or group. Box F 206, The Wall Street Journal.” Eleazar Sukenik had already passed away, but his son, Yigael Yadin just happened to be in the United States on a lecture tour at the time. Through a series of events, Yadin was able to purchase the scrolls his father failed to obtain.
In an ironic twist, archbishop Samuel was selling the scrolls to raise money for his church. Because of the wording of the sale, the IRS taxed Samuel for the proceeds from the Dead Sea Scrolls … so, even the IRS received a substantial sum of money from the Dead Sea Scrolls!
The purchase included the entire book of Isaiah known as the Isaiah scroll. Until this time the oldest extant Isaiah text was the Aleppo Codex, one of the Masoretic texts, which was written in the 10th century A.D. The Qumran Isaiah scroll was 1000 years OLDER than the Aleppo Codex. The book of Isaiah was written in 700 B.C. and very well may have been used for 500 years, meaning that this copy from the Dead Sea may have been made directly from the original!
The discovery of the Isaiah scroll proved the authenticity of the present Biblical text, as it had remained nearly identical for a thousand years.
The veracity of the Word of God is primarily demonstrated by its authority, revelation, and power to change lives; yet God has also providentially reaffirmed its textual accuracy through these remarkable recent discoveries. Isaiah himself declares by the Holy Spirit: “My Word shall not return empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” This has proven true in our own lives. Read the beautiful and powerful prophecy of Isaiah. You will be blessed, changed, and equipped to communicate the Lord's truth with His confidence. And thank Him for His faithful and detailed preservation of the texts themselves.