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orion Palms/water etc.
For a forum that was basically silent for so long, things are now moving
On July 16th, Stephen Goranson was discussing the places where Essenes could
be found. He pointed to evidence that Essenes were "in the part of 'Judea'
called Peraea . . ." and wondered whether Essenes were "also in the part of
'Judea' called Galilee?" I was puzzeled by this attempt to locate Essenes
according to political subdivision. Josephus wrote in Wars (Book II, Chapter
VIII) that there "are three philosophical sects among the Jews." He also
said that they "have no certain city, but many of them dwell in every city, .
. . ." Accordingly, I have not thought of Essenes as being limited by
political boundaries. It seems to me that one might logically expect to find
them in Jewish settlements in Egypt, Damascus and even Rome. So, I would
say "Yes" it is likely that there were Essenes in that part of Judea called
Galilee. Why not? And similarly, why not at Masada, En Gedi, Jericho and
inhabited places in between. There is no need to rub them out simply because
2000 years later we found some scrolls in some caves and haven't yet figured
out what it all means. To that extent - and without regard to Pliny - I
would agree with SG's message of July 18th that there is no particular reason
to "force the Essenes of Pliny's source away from Qumran." Why force them
away from any location where there was occupation by Jews? Of course, this
does not mean that Essenes must have been at Qumran or that they must have
been the only sect at Qumran. It simply means to me that, Pliny
nothwithstanding, they may have been at Qumran just as they were in
Jerusalem, Jericho, Masada etc.
On July 17th, Ian provided a list that said: "1) Qumran is basically to the
north of the Dead Sea, not west." [ I am not sure I understand this
assertion. Qumran is near the north end of the Dead Sea, that is true, but I
would suggest that if one walked directly east from Qumran one will walk into
the Dead Sea - unless it has lost a lot of water since last year when I was
looking directly east from the site. And assuming that its water level was
considerably higher in the relevant time period, it certainly was west of the
Dead Sea then too] [and IH also asserted] 4) Qumran didn't have water to
supply the growth of palms. [ Again, I am not sure where this conclusion
comes from. How much water does it take to grow a date palm? I thought IH
agreed that there it was cooler and wetter in the area during the period of
occupation - perhaps not in the summer but at least on an annual basis. I
also thought IH agreed that the site had an elaborate water system. So, why
wouldn't there be enough water to grown palms.] Even in a bad year for water
supply, the Jordon is not so far away that survival would be threatened by
Josephus provides what appears to me to be a description of an elaborate
irrigation system used, in part, for growing date palms for an area of at
least nine miles around Jericho. In Wars (Book IV, Chapter VIII) he is
discussing Vespasian advancing through Samaria and Trajan advancing through
Perea to join forces at Jericho in the process of destroying Judea. This
must have been an ominous moment for whoever was occupying Qumran. Josephus
then interrupts the narative to describe the surrounding area. He says that
Jericho is situated in a plain "which extends itself to the land of
Scythopolis northward, but as far as the country of Sodom, and the utmost
limits of the lake Asphaltitis southward." He says that this "plain is much
burnt up in summer-time, and, by reason of the extraordinary heat, contains a
very unwholesome air; it is all destitute of water excepting the river
Jordon, which water of Jordon is the occasion why those plantations of
palm-trees that are near its banks are more fourishing, and much more
fruitful, as those that are remote from it not so flourishing and fruitful."
So, where are the plantations of palm-trees that are "remote" from the
Jordon? Isn't it possible that there were plantations of palm-trees at
Qumran which, as IH points out, is not too remote from Jericho?
Josephus then describes the fountain by Jericho and how it came to hold fresh
water through the intervention of Elisha who changed the water to fresh. He
then says the fountain "waters a larger space of ground than any other waters
do [implying that there are other irrigation systems in the area?], and
passes along a plain of seventy furlongs [wouldn't this be about 9 miles?]
long and twenty [about 2.5 miles] broad; wherin it affords nourishment to
those most excellent gardens that are thick set with trees. There are in it
many sorts of palm-trees that are watered by it, different from each other in
taste and name; the better sort or them, when they are pressed, yield an
excellent kind of honey, not much inferior in sweetness to other honey."
Isn't there a discussion of honey in the scrolls?
I also noted that in this same passage that he says "that the people in the
country are clothed in linen only, even when snow covers the rest of Judea"
after ealier describing Essenes as clothed in white garments.
He also describes the Dead Sea and in the process he includes a passage
about how the ships remove the bitumen with "menstrual blood of women, and
with urine, to which alone it yields." Not a likely occupation for an
Essene, I would think. He does mention that the bitumen is mixed in many
medicines after having earlier said that Essenes "inquire after such roots
and medicinal stones as may cure their distempers." Perhaps, another reason
for Essenes to be near the shore of the Dead Sea? Maybe the disorderly
graves are the bitumen hunters?
There are a few other places where J discusses elaborate irrigation systems
and palms, but not necessarily together. In Antiquities (Book XV, Chapter
IX) he seems to be discussing the construction of the Herodium and refers to
"the water which is brought thither from a great way off, and at vast
expenses; for the place itself is destitute of water." And in Antiquities
(Book XV, Chapter V) he discusses Herod's meeting with Cleopatra at Jericho
where she allegedly tried to seduce him, and remarks: " This country bears
that balsam, which is the most precious drug that is there [implying the
existence of other precious drugs in the area and perhaps providing another
reason for Essenes to be nearby?] and grows there alone. The place bears also
palm-trees, both many in number, and those excellent in their kind."