After the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the 1940s and 1950s, scholars hoarded them jealously while trying to carve out a little piece of immortality for themselves as translators and revealers. The dribs and drabs of selective translation allowed a pacifist, even hippie, interpretation of the community at Qumran, where Essenes were deemed to have been the owners of the texts.
It was only with the appearance of an almost complete translation, including the War Scroll and details of the authoritarian and militaristic aspects of daily life that comprise 30% of the manuscripts, that it became clear that the library was not Essene. What is thought to have happened is that Essenes indeed used to live at Qumran until a severe earthquake in 31 BCE damaged many of the buildings, triggered an extensive fire, and possibly led to poisonous fumes being released from the Dead Sea. The site was abandoned for several decades.
I propose that the remnants of Judas of Galilee’s Zealot army, crushed by the Romans in response to his violent insurrection in 6 CE, took refuge in Qumran, and that the library is theirs. That was the uprising that ended with the Romans crucifying 2,000 Jews (and incidentally, Jesus’ father Joseph is never mentioned again after that time – make of it what you will – I personally make a lot).
Regarding translations and interpretations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, I recommend the translation by Wise, Abegg and Cook (HarperCollins, 1996). Avoid anything earlier than that as being too selective and biased to be worth reading.
Roughly 40% of the material is standard-Biblical, 30% is apocryphal-Biblical, and the remaining 30% is bizarre and fascinating, with everything from formidably tough social laws (“A man who draws out his left hand to gesture during conversation is to suffer ten days’ reduced rations”) to details of a future war with the Romans, both preparations (“On the trumpets of ambush they shall write, Mysteries of God to wipe out wickedness. On the trumpets of pursuit they shall write, God has struck all Sons of Darkness, He shall not abate His anger until they are annihilated“) and the prophesied outcomes of individual battles.
It is a strange and wonderful text, showing the daily lives and background mythology of a violent fundamentalist sect.