The Essenes were a mystic Jewish sect during the Second Temple period that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE.
The Jewish historian Josephus records that Essenes existed in large numbers, thousands lived throughout Roman Judaea. They were fewer in number than the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the other two major sects at the time. The Essenes lived in various cities but congregated in communal life dedicated to voluntary poverty, daily immersion, and asceticism (their priestly class practiced celibacy). Most scholars claim they seceded from the Zadokite priests.
Essenes were the outgrowth of the periods of preparations from the teachings by Melchizedek as propagated by Elijah and other prophets for three hundred years. Their purpose was to set themselves aside to offer themselves to be in the direct line of choice for the coming of the promised one – the Messiah. They were preparing for and expecting this event, thus the name Essene means expectancy.