Copyright © 1963 Andrews University Press, cited with permission;
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A LAND FLOWING WITH MILK AND HONEY
S. DOUGLAS WATERHOUSE
It is today difficult to imagine the
most beauteous of all nations" (Jer ).1 After viewing
nature's more richly verdant landscapes, as are to be found,
for example, within the temperate zones of
Covered with degraded vegetation and brush, or consisting
simply of bare rocks, denuded hillsides and exposed gullies,
modern-day Palestine-Syria2 seems far removed from what
Bible writers designated as a Promised Land. This is particu-
larly true during the dry summer months when it appears as
if all vegetation has been obliterated. The hillcountry, with
its conspicuously bare, limestone outcropping, then seemingly
emerges as the bleak skeleton of a barren land. True, the
dryness is only relative, but the ruins of proud cities which
flourished hundreds and thousands of years ago are to be seen
today where Bedouins of the desert live as nomadic tribes.
Could it be possible that this was the land described in the
Old Testament as "flowing with milk and honey?"3 Is it
1 The Biblical texts used in this paper are taken from either the
RSV or the KJV.
2 The bounds of ancient
Early History of the West Semitic Peoples," JCS, XV (1961), 42;
John. C. L. Gibson, "Observations on Some Important Ethnic Terms
in the Pentateuch," JNES, XX (1961), 217-218; B. Mazar, "Geshur
and Maacah," JBL, LXXX (1961), 17-18.
3 A proverbial expression for a land of plenty which is paralleled
in Canaanite (Ugaritic) literature in the passage: "The skies were rain-
ing fatness, the wadies were running with honey," Theodor H. Gaster,
Thespis (New York, 1950), p. 22; cf. James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient
Near Eastern Texts (2d edition;
possible that this was the country which boasted of inhabitants
as strong as oaks and as tall as cedars?4
A perusal of the literature bearing on the history of this
region reveals that
nean lands which in times past were reknown for their former
prosperous productivity, but which are today blighted by
want.5 One is left, nevertheless, to wonder how Biblical
there was a comparison--how did the land reach such a low
ebb as is evident today?
It must be confessed that certain archaeological findings
have not enhanced the notion that
of fabulous natural endowments. Excavations, for example,
have produced a disproportionately small amount of gold
and silver in the Israelite strata when compared to contempo-
after ANET). Ancient religious philosophy was obsessed with finding
a means to prevent the corrosive influences of time and restore the
primeval, mythical golden age of plenty. The concept underlying the
description of the Promised Land likens
age when all was once prosperous; see Gaster, loc. cit.; Mircea Eliade,
Cosmos and History (New York, 1959). .
4 Amos 2:9. The Old Testament speaks of the land as being so pro-
ductive that a single cluster of grapes was too large for one man to
5 But note, for instance, the Israeli reclamation work which is now
succeeding in establishing a flourishing agricultural population in the
low-lying plains and valleys of
6 As a sample of the astounding productivity of these areas in ancient
times, see particularly the article of Waldo H. Dubberstein: "Compara-
tive Prices in Later Babylonia. (625-400 B.C.)," AJSL, LVI (1939),
He writes: "Mass production was. . . the style in
(625-400 B.C.). Contracts show as many as forty thousand bushels
grown on one tract. . . Barley, the most common grain
(was produced on a scale rivaling grain production on present-day farms
and ranches. Nearly fifty thousand bushels of barley were measured
into Eanna, the
Glimpses of great flocks and herds are given. . . A temple income list
of wool shows over ten thousand pounds of sheep wool and several
hundred pounds of goat 'wool' being weighed in, etc. (Ibid., pp.
154 DOUGLAS WATERHOUSE
rary strata of
gold and silver have not been so meager in the earlier Canaanite
levels, the question persists as to whether or not
deserves its lustrous fame as a bounteous land of wealth.8
Some have even suggested that the Biblical outlook was
colored from the standpoint of a nomadic desert people
inured to the waste lands prior to their entry into Canaan.9
The purpose of this article is especially directed to deal with
Climatic theorists, the most notable of which was Ellsworth
arid landscape of Syro-Palestine, explained the apparent
desiccation of the land as due to drastic recurring climatic cycles
--a notion which was freely drawn upon in explaining the
fall and rise of past civilizations.10 There is, however, no real
evidence to support those who attribute the present com-
parative poverty of the Mediterranean area to either cyclic
changes in rainfall and temperature or to a gradual change in
climate.11 After all, it was no climatic change that turned
7 W. F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine (Revised edition;
Pelican Book, 196o), p. 252 (hereafter AP).
8 It is, of course, a
well-known archaeological fact that
enjoyed a material wealth unmatched by later Israelite strata. Cf.
L. Kelso, "Excavations at
9 Cf., for example, Cyrus H. Gordon, Introduction to Old Testament
Times (Ventnor, N. J., 1953), pp. 131-132.
10 Ellsworth Huntington,
For a scholarly appraisal of
A. T. Olmstead, "Climatic Changes in the Nearest East, " Bulletin of
the American Geographical Society, XLIV (1912), 432-440; Albright,
From the Stone Age to
pp. 71-74; Denis Baly, The Geography of the Bible (New York, 1957),
11 Baly leans toward the view that though there was no different
climatic regime during the Biblical period from the present, the balance
of that regime has varied from time to time. In a logical argument,
Baly points out that any slight variation of the climate at all must in
some way affect the position of the marginal frontierland lying between
the desert and the sown; Baly; loc. cit. F. S. Bodenheimer follows the
same thought: "We do not suppose that any important fluctuations
Happily for the historical
most complete and continuous picture of human history that
is at present available in any part of the world. Past theories,
built to explain the obviously drastic changes (dealt with
more fully below), which
its long history, have had to face an ever relentless increase
of knowledge. It was for some years assumed, for example,
that the prehistoric fauna of the
littoral reflected a real cold-period of
fossil flora (found in
large-leaved oak were taken as indicators of a northern
boreal invasion caused by a southward moving cold front.
Subsequent discovery, however, has revealed that these
same plants, far from having any bearing on historical
interpretation, are still thriving
tion of certain biotypes--was taken as one of the main
evidences for distinguishing between "the Upper and Lower
investigation, however, has demonstrated that such "warm"
species, as the hippopotamus, did not disappear by a sudden,
prehistoric shift in climate but survived in
historical times.13 The case against climatic changes, even in
the remote past, has therefore been strengthened.14
of temperature occurred since the mesolithic era. But even relatively
small changes in the field of precipitations, slight increases of rain
from 100 to 200 mm per annum, combined with a greater stability
of annual and seasonal rain distribution, must have had far-reaching
consequences, changing wide areas and patches of desert into steppes
and savannas, permitting passage and penetration of animals from the
east, west and south." Animal and Man in Bible Lands (
12 Bodenehimer, op. cit., p. 18.
13 Georg Haas, "On the Occurrence of Hippopotamus in the Iron
of the Coastal Area of
14 It is still generally held, however, that a past age of tropical
conditions prevailed when the land was "raw and damp and hot."
This condition is said to have been changed "at the beginning of the
156 S. DOUGLAS WATERHOUSE
Direct evidences against any drastic climatic changes are
not wanting. A type of terrestrial mollusc, sensitive to
variations in humidity, thrives today in the
region much as it did when men first settled in that locality.11
Even in such an exotic milieu as that of the prehistoric cave
much like that of the present, e.g., the lack of fossilization
among the early vertebrate-remains from Geulah Cave B
(in the proximity of
conditions of humidity did not change significantly (within
the cave) since the deposition of the bones there.16
In past millennia rain was certainly more effective in
roots would hold back the water and prevent the drying up
of springs.17 At the dawn of recorded history, when the Syro-
Palestinian littoral enjoyed a pristine state, this was especially
true. The land was then extremely lush.18 At a time prior
Mesolithic Natufian period" by the advent of a cooler, drier climate; cf.
Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert (New York, 1957), pp. 2-3; Boden-
heimer, op. cit., p. 32; Haas, loc. cit.
15 J. Perrot,
"The Excavations at Tell Abu Matar, near
IEJ, V (1955), 83, n. 10. The shell remains of Sphincterochila boissieri
Charp. are dated to the Ghassulean (Chalcolithic) era.
16 The remains of the
Mousterian, e.g., Middle Palaeolithicum. It is also of significance that
"this skeletal assemblage appears in situ and has not been washed in
hither," S. Angress, "The Vertebrate Remains from Geulah Cave B,"
IEJ, X (1960), 84-89. The
biotype remains from the
(dated to the Mesolithic-Natufian) point toward the same climatic
conditions then as found today, M. Stekelis and G. Haas, "The Abu
17 Baly, op. cit., p. 76.
18 The modern Near East with the aridity of its present climate
hardly prepares one in imagining its early history when there were
many more rivers, much more vegetation, and a land replete with
various forms of animal life. A brief survey of conditions as they then
appeared is given in Henri Frankfort, The Birth of Civilization in the
of his approach to field research dealing with the prehistory of western
able to find data from that early a period in
to that of the Egyptian. Fifth Dynasty (e.g., prior to about
2400 B.C.),19 Syro-Palestine was purportedly clothed with
greenery; an abundance of herbage supported what must
have been a veritable parkland teeming with wild life.
Scholarly research has make it possible to catch a snatching
glimpse of that primeval setting. Although rain was distribut-
ed, in all likelihood, in a manner similar to that of today,20
permanent, sizable rivers were not uncommon.21 Along the
coastal low country, open grassy plains and perennial pools
existed inland from the dune belt.22 Houses (Chalcolithic)
were of necessity raised on piles above what was evidently
an extremely marshy land.23 A glimpse is also afforded of the
watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land
not only made it reasonably certain that at that time many
more lateral streams flowed in the
today, but also that it was intensively developed, in spite
of its present summer heat and mosquito-breeding swamps.25
This primeval picture did not last long into historical times.
Toward the end of the third millennium B.C., there was a
marked desiccation in the amount of available moisture.26
lay much of a bet on the lush Syro-Palestinian littoral: I've a hunch
it was too lush," "
Antiquity, XXXI (1957), 80.
19 Cf. John.A:
20 Stekelis and Haas, loc. cit.
21 Dorothy A. E. Garrod, "The Stone Age of
VIII (1934), 146.
22 Stekelis and Haas, loc. cit.
23 Albright, AP, p. 68.
24 Both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources attest the former beauty
and productiveness of the Jordan-enriched plains; see Albright, "The
Mowry, "Settlements in the
Period (63 B.C.-A.D. 34)," BA, XV (1952), 26-42.
25 Albright, AP, p. 69; AASOR, VI (1926), 67-68.
26 See above, n. 19.
158 S. DOUGLAS WATERHOUSE
the environs of ancient
occurred concomitantly with a severe erosion which removed
at least three feet of the overlying, soft, limestone rock.
underground tombs of
to the Egyptian Sixth Dynasty, were left roofless.27 At the
same time, settlements may have been abandoned along the
Mediterranean coastal plain.28 Presumably, with the drying
up of the marshes, the Philistian-Sharon coastal inhabitants
were affected by the growing shortage of water.
An increase in population and a decrease in forests and top
soil were evidently already joining hands with the corrosive
influence of passing time! The trend toward contemporary
conditions of aridity, however, was never again to bite so
world, its natural endowments were far from abated. Dense
woodlands covered districts which are now largely, or even
entirely, bereft of tree growth. Today, meager remnants of
these once extensive forests are found in the Judean and
upper Galilean hill country. While the
wooded, even these regions are poor reminders of the towering
thickets of tree growth found in former centuries. The Meri-ka-
Re texts of the Egyptian Ninth or Tenth Dynasties (cir.
B.C.) speak of southern
and made inaccessible by many trees.30 Interestingly, in the
27 Kenyon, loc. cit.
28 Cf. Yeivin, op. cit., p. 191.
29 Since the second
millennium B.C. the water-level of
remained roughly the same as it is today; Albright, AP, pp. 250-251;
w. C. Lowdermilk,
pp. 63-64. That boundary between the desert and the sown has remain-
ed the same since Biblical times is shown by archaeological investiga-
tion and such Biblical
passages as 2 Ki 3:9 where
with the same dry, climatic conditions as is found there today. Cf.
Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (2d edition; Baltimore,
1946), p. 100.
30 Sir Alan Gardiner,
An Egyptian literary text from the second half of the thirteenth
environs of the Judean hill country, there existed a large
coniferous forest of pine and cypress where now there is
scarcely a tree substantial enough to be used for the building
of houses or furniture!31
If one considers the fuel requirements of the early metallur-
gical industries and the considerable amount of trees utilized
for the walls and houses of such ancient cities as that of
rich supply of timber, a stately legacy of
was to wane rapidly with the coming of the Hebrews.33
By the twelfth century B.C., the coniferous forest had largely
disappeared from the hillcountry,34 and by Solomon's reign,
in the tenth century B.C., Hiram, king of
called upon to supply wood for the building of the temple in
Of the wild life which in former times filled the land, an
amazing number show strong affinities to animal-forms
presently associated only with the African savanna country.
Lions once roamed in the forested sections of the land and
century B.C. describes Palestinian roads as being darkened with an
overgrowth of cypresses, oaks, and cedars; ANET, p. 477. On the
former forestation of
LXXXVII (1955), 87-88; Siegfried H. Horn, Seventh-day Adventist
Bible Dictionary (Washington, D. C., 1960), pp. 804, 806.
31 Albright, AASOR, IV (1942), 7-8, 20.
32 Perrot, op. cit., p. 84; Kenyon, op. cit., pp. 183-184.
33 Note, for example, that Joshua told the men of the Joseph tribes
to make room for themselves in
(Jos 17:15). In making the land habitable, the Hebrews undoubtedly
pushed back the forested areas to much smaller perimeters; see below,
34 Evidence from the excavations at Gibeah indicate the apparent
disappearance of pine and cypress in that locality sometime between
the thirteenth and the eleventh centuries B.C.; Albright, AASOR, IV
(1942), 7-8, 20. Originally, a very extensive coniferous forest may have
formed a more or less continuous belt from the heights
down through the entire length of the Palestinian hillcountry. The soil
and climate of the hillcountry is said to be "admirably adapted" to
this type of forest.
160 S. DOUGLAS WATERHOUSE
had their lairs in rocky caves. An Egyptian literary document
dated from the second half of the thirteenth century B.C.
states that: “the soldier, when he goeth up to Retenu (Pales-
tine) hath no staff and no sandals. He knoweth not whether he
be dead or alive, by reason of the fierce lions." Another
document from the same period complains that
more lions than panthers or hyenas!35 It may be recalled
that the Old Testament speaks of actual encounters with
lions--Samson tore a young lion “and he had nothing in his
hand" (Jugs 14:5-6); even the youthful David attacked
lions and bears and killed them (I Sa -36). Surprisingly,
the lion was still to be seen in
The hippopotamus was once found in the rivers of the coas-
tal plain, (until at least the fourth century B.C.), possibly in
swamp flora, such as water lilies and papyrus, served as an
ideal habitat for these great beasts. Remnants of this flora
were still surviving as recently as a hundred years ago along
man hippo is spoken of by Job as lying under “the lotus
plants. . . in the covert of the reeds and in the marsh. . . .
Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened; he is
35 Bodenheimer, op. cit., p. 169; ANET, p. 477.
36 Ludwig Kohler, Hebrew Man (Nashville, Tenn., 1953), p. 26.
Layard reports that in the 1840's lions were frequently caught "in the
by the Arabs." The lion, at that time, was still well known along the
and Its Remains (
37 Haas, BASOR, No. 132 (1953), 30-34. Excavations at Tell Qasileh
near Tel-Aviv have unearthed hippopotamus remains from the 12th-
4th century B.C.; elsewhere, hippo remains are dated to the 13th-14th
century B.C. from Ras Shamra (
far been dredged up from the
they persisted in this river way into historic times (cf. Job 40:23;
although behemoth is a general expression for beasts, Job undoubtedly
is here referring to the hippo).
40:15-23). Such a scene may presently only be paralleled in
which up to the beginning of this century still survived in
Strange as it may now seem, until at least the thirteenth
century B.C., elephant herds roamed within range of the
Syria.39 The Jackal, spotted hyena, wart hog, Megaderma-bat
and even the rhino, were surprisingly all part of early, Syro-
Palestinian history and represent (with the animals enumerat-
ed above) the last survivors of a fauna which had once invaded
the country from the north and east-before reaching the
then Virgin African territories.40
Historical sources illuminate not only the fact that Palesti-
ne's fauna has undergone continuous reduction and thinning
from human dawn until our own days,41 but also throw light
on how the ancients themselves esteemed the
terranean littoral. The "novel" of Sinuhe, dating from the
twentieth century B.C., describes the highland of Palestine-Syria
as a land of figs and vines, having more wine than water.
"Plentiful was its honey, abundant its oil and all fruits were
38 Haas, op. cit., pp. 32-33; Bodenheimer, op. cit., p. 65.
39 R. D. Barnett, A Catalogue of the
Examples of Ancient Near
Eastern Ivories in the
Lands," BA, XVIII (1955), 17-18. For the location of Niya see Sir
Alan Gardiner, Ancient Egyptian Onomastica (
40 Thus Bodenheimer, op. cit., pp. 16-17. It would not be too sur-
prising if evidence should be forthcoming on the early existence in
Syro-Palestine of other members of the so-called "African fauna.”
Both from reliefs (Barnett, op. cit., p. 59, n. 10) and the Assyrian
annals (ANET, p. 297) it is known that Ashurbanipal (668-633 B.C.)
received monkeys and apes from Phoencia. The evidence, so far,
however, is not of a decisive nature and it is generally held that the
Canaanites regularly imported monkeys or apes for religious purposes,
Barnett op. cit., p. 108; W. C. McDermott, The Ape in Antiquity
41 Bodenheimer, op. cit., p. 29.
62 S. DOUGLAS WATERHOUSE
on its trees. There was barley in it and wheat, and countless
cattle of all kinds." The daily fare, which the land offered,
was said to have been bread, wine, cooked meat and roast
fowl "over and above the wild game of the desert" and "milk
prepared in every way." As F. S. Bodenheimer has pointed
out, this was obviously a country of "milk and honey!"42
wealth, natural resources, strategic harbors and vital trade
routes (linking the land of the
mighty empires of the
lured invaders. One of the most notable was the great Egyp-
tian conqueror Thutmose III (fifteenth century B.C.). With
the advent of his reign, long lists of Asiatic tribute and booty
appear on Egyptian steles and on temple walls. These lists
serve as a good indicator of
of grain, oil and wines, fruits and other luscious things of the
land are listed. One year mentions that the kinglets
rendered unto Pharaoh: "30 horses, chariots wrought with
silver and gold, decorated with paintings, 90 man-servants,
40 maid-servants, gold." long-horned and dehorned cattle,
sacrificial bulls and asses. Among the tribute of another
year are to be found: "45 bulls, 749 rams, therebinth resin,
823 jars of honey, ivory and carob wood."43 In a letter to a
later Pharaoh, a prince of central
tribute lists: "When the troops and chariots of my lord came,
food, drink cattle. . . honey and oil, were brought forth for
the troops and chariots of my lord."44 Evidently, when Pha-
raoh's army penetrated into
was depended upon to sustain the intruders.
If doubt still persists that
with milk and honey, an effective answer is given in the
account of Thutmose's decisive victory over the famed fortress-
42 Ibid., pp. 164-165; for the story of Sinuhe see ANET, pp. 18-22.
43 Bodenheimer, op. cit., p. 166.
44 S. A. B. Mercer, The Tell EI-Amarna
No. 55: 10-12.
ties inflicted on the conquered and the 340 prisoners taken,
an enormous booty is listed consisting of 20,500 sheep,
2,041 horses, 2,000 goats, 1,929 cows, 191 foals, 6 stallions,
924 chariots and other precious objects!45 And this at an
age when such cities as
the population light (all
more than 200,000 people).46
Significantly, pharaonic monuments markedly differentiate
between the slight of built, slender Egyptians and the more
heavily constructed, inclined-to-be-corpulent Canaanite.47
An Egyptian text of the thirteenth century B.C. even speaks
of Canaanites having the height of "four or five cubits (from)
their noses to the heel" (or being around seven to nine feet
tall)!48 The Egyptian text is reminiscent of an Old Testament
passage written m the same vein: "All the people that we saw
in it (
the giants. . . and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers,
and so we were in their sight" (Num ). A more apt
symbol may not be found of a country's fruitful prosperity
than inhabitants famed for their great stature and tremendous
What has happened to change the country where people
once lived off the "fat of the land ?" How did its former
“luster", coveted in antiquity, become so dim? Part of the
45 Bodenheimer, op. cit., p. 165; ANET, p. 237. Thutmose III, in one
of his additions to the great
plants and a number of animals he found in
illustrations, only a part of which are extant, form the oldest zoological
great majority are birds] represented in the
46 The population estimate is that of Albright's; see Edward
F. Campbell, "The Amarna Letters and the Amarna Period," BA,
XXIII (1960), 21.
47 George Steindorff and Keith C. Seele, When
48 Papyrus Anastasi I; ANET, p. 477.
164 S. DOUGLAS WATERHOUSE
answer is certainly to be found in studying the region's
climate. The effect of too little rain and too much sunshine
--where the weather is good, but the climate is bad49--has
perate areas are. Although the robber economy that destroys
forests and wastes the wealth of the soil has held sway in
almost every part of the world, it has been particularly
abusive in sub-tropical environments, such as that of the
during the long dry season, the excessive concentration of
rainfall in the torrential winter rains and the salinity of poorly
drained soils.50 In such an environment the misuse of the land
leads rapidly to extensive soil-destruction, which is difficult
to repair. Where in Roman times, the soil may have been
6 1/2 feet deep, there is now only rock surfaces.51 Cleared and
cultivated, terraced and wasted through the centuries, the
49 The climate is being spoken of as "bad" in the historical sense.
The Mediterranean climate is characterized by cold, rainy winters
and long, dry summers, separated by short spring and autumn seasons
during which climatic conditions are extremely unpredictable. The
geographer speaks of southern
most healthful regions of the Near and Middle East, as well as one of
the poorest areas occupied by a sedentary population. ..," Albright,
AP, p. 254. The problem of
but the fact that practically all the rain falls in the colder half of the
year when it is of little use for vegetation, cf. below, note 50.
50 Exploration has revealed that extraordinary care was taken in
antiquity for the conservation of water. "Innumerable dams, reservoirs,
and cisterns were constructed, in which the winter rain was collected
and from which a supply of water for the months of dryness was ob-
tained." G. Ernest Wright and Floyd V. Filson, editors, The West-
minster Historical Atlas to the Bible (Rev. ed.; Philadelphia, 1956), p. 64.
51 Palestine-Syria, before erosion transformed it into a desert, was
well supplied with water. "One finds stone spring houses beside
springs which ceased to exist when the soil was removed by erosion.
In some instances there appears to have been perennial water in the
now dry streambeds. . . it is impossible to explain the use of certain
olive oil presses except on the assumption that the soil was then 6 1/2
feet deep over the present rock surface. . . Man-induced erosion of
the soil has in this region. . . swept 3 to 6 feet of the soil from the hill
land is frequently left stony and sterile. Unfortunately, soil
wash is still continuing where there is any soil left.
The present state of
political struggles. In the bitter Jewish insurrection which
terminated with the destruction of
thousands of Jews from all over
or scattered as slaves throughout the
more than sixty years later, a disaster took place in an even
more bitter rebellion which was cruelly and devastatingly
crushed. The result was a major disruption and a great
impoverishment of town and city life. Finally, there was the
Arab invasion of A.D. 630 which opened up the country to
nomadic Bedouin tribes of the desert. Speaking of these
intruders, Walter C. Lowdermilk writes:
They pitch their black, batlike tents amidst ruins of the magnifi-
cence of the past and allow the terraces to break down and the soils to
wash away. They permit their goats to destroy and trample out the
former measures for conservation of the soil and water. . . The noma-
dic invaders and their goats worked hand in hand with erosion to
destroy the fertility of the lands. . . by fire and the axe they destroyed
the remaining forest as well as plantations of olives and vines.52
The geographical changes which man and time have inflicted
the history of the
what once must have been a beauteous vale,53 the Sea has
steadily risen, inundating and destroying--with its rising
waters--cities,54 roads,55 extensive tamarisks groves,56 mason-
lands," Lowdermilk, "Erosion at its Worst, and a Hundred Dead
Cities," Soil Conservation, V (1939), 160-162.
52 Ibid., p. 162.
Gen 13:10. In ancient times the whole
known for its great productivity. In Roman times the
was famous for both its sweet wine and the fruit of its palm trees,
Mowry, op. cit., pp. 31-32; see above, note 24.
54 Gen 14:3; cf. also F. G. Clapp, "The Site of Sodom and Go-
morrah," AJA, XL (1936), 323-344.
55 In Roman times a causeway connected the present peninsula of
El Lisan to the coast
still possible to ford as late as 1846, Ibid., pp. 204-205.
56 Many square miles of former tamarisk groves are now clearly
166 S. DOUGLAS WATERHOUSE
ry,57 fresh-water springs,58 and even the recently (1886) visible
thern head of the Sea).59 Although the factors which are
causing this "overflowing" are not as yet fully understood,60
a major cause is surely to be found in the disruption of former
irrigation, the denudation of the forests, the loss of moisture-
absorbing soil-cover, and the constant silting of erosion.
The Biblical prediction that "the earth shall wax old as a
garment" (Is 51:6) has certainly been dramatically fulfilled
visible under the sea water south of El Lisan, Albright, AASOR, VI
57 The level of the Sea "has risen more than ten meters since masonry
construction of some kind were buried under it," Albright, BASOR,
No. 163 (1961), 51, n. 73.
58 There are now a number of fresh water springs which are right on
the water's edge, Baly, op. cit., p. 203.
59 Clapp, op. cit., p. 33.
60 Why this peculiar "dead-end" Sea is rising still remains as enig-
ma. It is obviously caused by the combination of many reasons.
Albright suggests that the deposit of silt, and the influx of the salts
into a body of water which already contains them in saturated solution
“naturally means that there is a constant and rapid deposition of
mineral crystals on the bottom," Albright, AASOR, VI (1926), 55-56.
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