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It seems to me that Ein-Gedi would have been an ideal site for a sect which
strove to "leave corruption behind". Now I realize that the following may
seem rather speculative- but its the little clues which make a case.
I would like to suggest that Ein Gedi would have been viewed as significant
by the Essenes for several reasons:
1- It was apparently a very beautiful place (2 Ch 20:2, Song 1:14, Sir 24:14).
2- It was the place where David sought refuge from Saul (1 Sam 23:29, 24:1).
This alone seems a very suggestive idea; for what better place to find
refuge from the wicked priest than the place where David himself sought
refuge? Perhaps the tradition of Ein-Gedi as a place of refuge existed in
some extra-biblical sources?
3- Ezek knows it as a place where, when the kingdom is restored, folk will
go fishing in the sea!!!! (47:10). It thus serves as an eschatological (!)
place in the mind of some post exilic Jews.
For these three reasons it seems very likely that disenfranchised Jews of
the second Temple period very well may have established themselves nearby
(just as the graves on the east of Jerusalem are there because when Messiah
comes those therein will rise first).
Jim West, ThD
Adjunct Professor of Bible
Quartz Hill School of Theology