Tuesday, June 04, 2024

  • Tuesday, June 04, 2024
  • Elder of Ziyon

The Book of Ruth, which Jews read on the Shavuot holiday next week, starts off with something that seems unlikely on the surface::

AND IT came to pass in the days when the judges judged, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the field of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons.,And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Beth-lehem in Judah. And they came into the field of Moab, and continued there
Moab was not far away - most of Moab was within 25 miles/40 kilometers from Bethlehem. 

How could there be a famine in Judea and food be plentiful in Moab?

The fact that there was a significant famine has been proven by archaeologists, by examining pollen samples from the time period. Scientists from Tel Aviv University and Germany’s University of Bonn found evidence of a major drought between 1250-1100 BCE in the Levant, right in that same time period of the Judges. But that only makes the question stronger: how could there have been food in Moab? Did they have a Joseph-like figure to store grain during times of plenty?

The current issue of Biblical Archaeological Review has a sidebar to its story about Moab, written by archaeologists studying the region of Moab in modern-day Jordan,  that sheds light on the answer:
Our investigations at Balu‘a may have revealed the answer. The land around the site is quite fertile, perhaps in part because of the volcanic soils of the area (thanks to nearby Jebel Shihan). Soils derived from basalt can be rich in minerals that make it quite fertile and productive for dry farming. Preliminary archaeobotanical analysis confirms the presence of barley, wheat, lentils, and peas in the site’s Iron Age occupation levels. So, although the biblical author does not specifically identify the area around Balu‘a, his general knowledge of Moab’s relatively stable agricultural food supply seems to underlie the setting of the story.
That's pretty neat! 

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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