Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Enoch and “dry ground”

The most interesting approach to the dating of Enoch is that of Charlesworth and his analysis of the meaning and significance of the use of the phrase “dry ground” in the Parables (En 48:8; 62:9; 63:1-10). Prior to the 19th century, Palestine was defined by two types of land: the dry land, and the swamps and marshes. Where were the swamps located? According to Charlesworth, “they defined the low country near the coast, the vast areas west of Kinneret, and especially the land in Hulah Valley.” Charlesworth also noted that many Jewish people lost their land during Herod’s reign to Herod and his hierarchy. Ant. 17.304-14. Moreover, according to Charles worth “the best location for those who live near swamps – non dry ground – and lament the loss of dry ground to the Herodians and their henchmen, is the Hulah Valley, the large swampy area from Dan or Banias to Bethsaida or Capernaum.” The transfiguration took place near Banias.

Furthermore, “archaeological excavations strengthen the conclusion we obtained by focusing on texts. The recent excavations help us understand that two-thirds of the desirable land (the dry land) was lost to the Herodian dynasty from the end of the first century BCE to the first two decades of the first century CE. The appearance of large sumptuous manor houses and palatial abodes witness to a new development in the Herodian period.”

An article, not cited by Charlesworth, written by Berlin [Biblical Archaeologist 60:1 (1997)] about material cultural change and settlement patterns observed:

“By the early mid first century BCE, most of the regions around the perimeter of the Hasmonean kingdom were very largely depopulated. All sorts of sites, cities and villas, rural farmsteads were abandoned. In the Hula Valley, Tel Anafa was abandoned in 75 BCE; in the Akko plain scores of small farmsteads were deserted in the early first century; on the coast, Dor, Strato’s Tower, and Ashdod sat unoccupied by the beginning the first century; in the foothills and in Idumea, Gezer, and Maresha lay deserted.”

The provenance of Enoch is believed to be Upper Galilee, the same areas described by Berlin as “largely depopulated” in the first century BCE. Enoch does not tell us how the “those who rule the dry ground” acquired their land or how the “righteous ones” lost their land. Berlin certainly confirms these areas “largely depopulated” would be available for easy taking.

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