About A.D. 70 near Jerusalem:
“Here! Here's a place. These caves. Quickly! Someone's coming!”
October 11, 1948
Micah stepped out the door for a breath of air. It was hot and dry, but better than the atmosphere in his uncle's dim shop, thick with the odor of drying fish and the cloying mix of herbs.
The Bedouin traders had finally left. Micah looked at the bundles lying on the table near the back of the shop, wondering what the sheepskin really held. The haggling had gone on for most of the morning; the Bedouin's certain they had something of value to the old Jew, and his uncle, after a peek inside the skins, equally certain that it was of inestimable value, though being careful to hide this from all but his nephew.
Micah's thoughts turned to the conversation of the evening before.
“Uncle, is it not possible that Jesus was the promised Messiah? Even parts of our Talmud point to...”
“Micah, I believe what I believe! Do not speak to me of this heresy in my home again!”
Micah thought of his own conversion. A Christian friend showed him Isaiah 53 in the Christian bible.It still took some time to convince him. Then he opened the Talmud to Isaiah 53:
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
“Lord, with all my heart, I beg and plead for my uncle Levi. Have compassion on him please, Lord, that he may know Your true self. In the precious name of my Savior, Jesus, Amen.”
Hearing sounds in the back of the shop, Micah turned and re-entered the shop. His uncle Levi stood at the table, drawing on his pipe as he contemplated the sheepskin bundle.
“Uncle, you know what is in that?”
Levi turned to him. Micah couldn't discern his thoughts.
“Something very precious Micah. Something...I'm not sure I even know how valuable it is. I just got a peek though and knew it in my heart. It's a part of who we are; the Jewish people. Those traders had no idea. Come. Come and look.”
Micah approached with tremendous curiosity. Uncle could be very dramatic about things, but this was something that truly awed him.
Carefully Levi lifted the layers of oiled sheepskin – almost as though unwrapping a swaddled infant – and held it open for Micah to see.
In the low light he could hardly make out the ancient Hebrew writing. It was faded and clearly very old. As he looked more closely, the word “Ruth” leaped from the page. The ancient writing was difficult to follow, but it was evident – this was a fragment of a page from the book of Ruth.
“Ancient manuscripts”, Uncle Levi whispered reverently.
“Uncle, these must be centuries old. They're green with age.”
“Micah, I cannot know for sure, but my gut tells me that these manuscripts are an extraordinary discovery. I think only the Hebrew Museum could tell us for sure. I have called and they are sending someone to look at these.”
“Uncle, what else is in here? Are there more scriptures?”
“I have not explored myself. They are so fragile. I do not want to take any chances.”
“Can we not at least open the other bundle and just take a peek?”
Levi's curiosity evidently overcame his caution. Re-wrapping the first bundle securely, he gently peeled the sheepskin from the second.
Inside lay a thick manuscript, at the top of which appeared the word “Isaiah” in beautifully hand-lettered script. Not daring to touch what was clearly antique and frail, Levi gazed in wonder at what he saw.
Micah saw it too. Isaiah 53 lay revealed before them, the words speaking from the pages of a manuscript scribed an eternity in the past.
Levi read the words aloud:
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
After a long moment: “Micah...”, the elderly man's eyes glimmered in the darkness and he reached up with a handkerchief to wipe them. “Tell me again, please. What you were saying last night. Tell me again.”
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