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I have been working under the impression that camps as mentioned in a number
of the dss referred metaphorically to cities and villages as MMT goes into
great detail to explain regarding Jerusalem, for example, "We reckon that
the Temple [is 'the Tent of Witness,' while] Jerusale[m] is the 'camp'.
'Outside the camp' [means 'outside Jerusalem.']..."
There is a strong connection between the content of many of the dss and the
Mosaic situation of wandering in the wilderness, a wandering that I took to
be metaphorical. The importance given to the red heifer in MMT and elsewhere
(see 4Q276-277) is a very close link to the Mosaic idea and is strongly set
in camp imagery.
Many people have applied this camp terminology literally and thus we have
such ideas going around as the 'sectarians' living at Qumran in tents or
that people forced to leave the cities during the hellenistic crisis lived
in tents. I'd be interested in other ideas on the camps. Is there more
evidence for taking camps as literal or metaphorical?