Israeli general, political leader, and archaeologist. His personal involvement with the manuscripts from the Judean Desert began in the autumn of 1947, when his father and teacher, Professor Eleazar L. Sukenik, purchased three of the scrolls discovered by members of the Ta῾amireh bedouin earlier that same year in Cave 1 at Qumran. [See biography of Sukenik.] Although Yadin's direct connection with the scrolls was interrupted by his service as chief of operations in the Haganah and chief of staff in the Israel Defense Forces, he subsequently became deeply involved in the decipherment, study, and acquisition of additional Judean Desert manuscripts.
After concluding his military career in February 1952, Yadin chose as the subject of his doctoral dissertation at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem a translation and extensive commentary on the War Scroll (1QM), which had been only partially published by his father. [See War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness.] In this study (published in Hebrew in 1955 and in English in 1962), Yadin was the first to document fully the striking similarity of the battlefield movements described in the scroll with the tactics of the Roman legions of the early imperial period—not those of the Hellenistic phalanx, as a number of scholars earlier had proposed. Moreover, as an experienced military tactician and student of military history, Yadin suggested that the War Scroll's use of Hebrew terms such as gillul kappayim (“enveloping arms”), kenafim (“wings”), migdalim (“towers”), and darrukh me῾at (“flat arc”) was identical to the use of parallel Latin terms in widely distributed Roman military manuals.
After completing his study of the War Scroll, Yadin traveled to America in the summer of 1954 and became involved in secret negotiations for the purchase of the four Cave 1 scrolls (Isaiaha [1QIsaa], Pesher Habakkuk [1QpHab], Rule of the Community [1QS], and Genesis Apocryphon [1QapGen]) long sought by his father that were still in the possession of the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop, Athanasius Yeshue Samuel. [See Genesis Apocryphon; Isaiah, Book of; Pesher Habakkuk; Rule of the Community; and biography of Samuel.] With the assistance of Avraham Harman, then serving as Israeli consul general in New York, and with funds provided by New York industrialist D. Samuel Gottesman, Yadin acquired the manuscripts for the State of Israel. Together with the three scrolls purchased by Yadin's father (War Scroll, Hodayota [1QHa], and Isaiahb [1Q8]; hereafter 1QHodayota and 1QIsaiahb), these manuscripts became the nucleus of the collection of Jerusalem's Shrine of the Book. [See Hodayot; Shrine of the Book.] Yadin returned to Israel in the autumn of 1954 and collaborated with his father's longtime associate, Nahman Avigad, to publish the newly acquired and painstakingly opened Genesis Apocryphon and to complete the formal publication of 1QHodayota and 1QIsaiahb that had been left unfinished by Sukenik at the time of his death in 1953.
Although Yadin spent the years between 1955 and 1958 engaged in the excavation of Hazor, he maintained his interest in the Judean Desert manuscripts, publishing occasional review articles and comments on the recently discovered material from Cave 4. In 1960, however, he once again became deeply involved with the discovery and study of ancient texts. In response to reports of illegal digging in the caves of the Judean wilderness that lay within the borders of Israel, Yadin joined a large-scale expedition sponsored by the Israel Department of Antiquities, the Hebrew University, and the Israel Exploration Society, organized to search the region systematically for any remaining manuscripts or other archaeological finds. [See Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Israel Antiquities Authority; and Israel Exploration Society.] Yadin's sector included Naḥal Ḥever, where, in a large cave on the northern cliff face, he and his team uncovered a large collection of personal artifacts, human remains, and inscribed material (including military dispatches and legal documents left by refugees during the Bar Kokhba Revolt, c.132–135 ce). [See Ḥever, Naḥal.] Yadin's excavation of the Cave of the Letters and of the associated Roman camp provided a carefully documented archaeological context for the manuscript finds of the Bar Kokhba period that was largely lacking for the finds in the plundered caves of Wadi Murabba῾at. [See Bar Kokhba Revolt; Murabba῾at, Wadi.]
Yadin directed his most famous excavation at the mountain fortress of Masada between 1963 and 1965. [See Masada.] In addition to uncovering a complex of impressive Herodian palaces and administrative buildings from the late first century BCE, Yadin's team also distinguished clear evidence of the occupation of the fortress by Jewish rebels during the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans (66–70 ce). Written material uncovered on the summit included hundreds of Hebrew ostraca (pieces of inscribed pottery; apparently used for the distribution of provisions by the Herodian and Roman garrisons and, later, by the rebel occupants), scattered Greek and Latin graffiti, and almost fifty fragmentary texts and documents in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. The Hebrew manuscripts included fragments of biblical books (Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Psalms), noncanonical works (a work similar to Jubilees and Ben Sira), and sectarian literature including Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (Mas1k) that paralleled texts from Cave 4 at Qumran (4Q400–407). The manuscript finds from Masada also included rare Latin military and administrative texts connected with the garrison of the Tenth Legion Fretensis at the site.
Yadin's acquisition of one of the most important manuscripts from Qumran—Temple Scrolla (11Q19)—took place during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. [See Temple Scroll.] Since the early 1960s Yadin had been conducting inconclusive negotiations through an American middleman for the purchase of this long and important text, reportedly discovered at Qumran by the Ta῾amireh bedouin in the mid-1950s. With the Israeli occupation of Bethlehem, Yadin, then serving as security advisor to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, obtained the assistance of the Israel Defense Forces in locating and confiscating the Temple Scroll from a Bethlehem antiquities dealer, Khalil Iskander (Kando) Shahin. [See biography of Shahin.] Yadin's careful transcription of and exhaustive commentary on this document, published in Hebrew in 1977 and in English in 1983, marked the beginning of a new era in Qumran studies. Since the Temple Scroll contained complex codes of calendric, ritual, and purity law, Yadin masterfully demonstrated the importance of analyzing the Qumran sect's religious law or halakhah in light of later rabbinic literature.
Although Yadin died in 1984, leaving important manuscript material from the Judean Desert caves and Masada unpublished in final form, his work on the Judean Desert texts was carried on by students and colleagues under the auspices of the Israel Exploration Society, which began publishing final excavation reports and textual transcriptions of and commentaries on the Masada and Bar Kokhba-period texts in 1989.
- Avigad, Nahman, and Yigael Yadin. A Genesis Apocryphon: A Scroll from the Wilderness of Judea. Jerusalem, 1956.
- Documents from the Bar-Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters. Jerusalem, 1989– .
- Masada 1–5: The Yigael Yadin Excavations, 1963–1965, Final Reports. Jerusalem, 1989– . Definitive, readable series of site reports that retains much of Yadin's original interpretation while reevaluating the discoveries. The series includes Yigael Yadin and Joseph Naveh, Masada 1: The Aramaic and Hebrew Ostraca and Jar Inscriptions (Jerusalem, 1989), published with The Coins of Masada by Ya῾acov Meshorer; Hannah M. Cotton and Joseph Geiger, Masada 2: The Latin and Greek Documents (Jerusalem, 1989); and Ehud Netzer, Masada 3: The Buildings, Stratigraphy, and Architecture (Jerusalem, 1991). Masada 4 (Jerusalem, 1994) includes Dan Barag and Malka Hershkovitz, Lamps; Avigail Sheffer and Herd Granger-Taylor, Textiles; Kathryn Bernick, Basketry, Cordage, and Related Artifacts; Nili Liphschitz, Wood Remains; and Andrew Holley, Ballista Balls; Masada 5 (Jerusalem, 1995) includes G. Foerster, Art and Architecture.
- Silberman, Neil Asher. A Prophet from Amongst You: The Life of Yigael Yadin. New York, 1993.
- Yadin, Yigael. The Message of the Scrolls. London, 1957.
- Yadin, Yigael. The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness. Oxford, 1962.
- Yadin, Yigael. The Ben Sira Scroll from Masada. Jerusalem, 1965.
- Yadin, Yigael. Masada—Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand. New York, 1966.
- Yadin, Yigael. Bar-Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome. New York, 1971.
- Yadin, Yigael. The Temple Scroll. 3 vols. Jerusalem, 1977, 1983.
- Yadin, Yigael, and Carol Newsom. “The Masada Fragment of the Qumran Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice.” Israel Exploration Journal 34 (1984), 77–88.
Neil Asher Silberman