Friday, February 20, 2015

SEED CORN & SCROLLS


Cave 4, Qumran, Israel

As I was standing in the bright desert sunshine at the northern end of the Dead Sea in Israel, the wind was rushing over the sandy outcroppings before me. They say that God is in the wind and as a boy growing up in the windy central Kansas plains I came to instinctively know this as well. Jesus mentioned that “God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.” The sunshine was reflecting off the Dead Sea behind me as I gazed at the site of one of the most famous discoveries of the past century. I was within a stone’s throw of the cave (4) where all fifty two chapters of the ancient Old Testament Biblical book of Isaiah was discovered. Other caves in this desolate and difficult to reach region also contained many other scrolls of Biblical books along with other writings. They had been copied and later hidden in clay jars by an ascetic sect called the Essenes who had retreated from the broken world around them between the second century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., thus preserving some of the earliest copies of world famous writings. The occupying Romans conquered Qumran in 68 C.E in response to the great Jewish revolt of the time and dispersed the people.

My mind connected to a time many years ago when I was standing at the edge of a great canyon in Mesa Verde, Colorado and gazing in wonder at ancient cliff dwellings. The Anasazi Indians occupied these cliff dwellings as the wind circulated in a timeless Bernoulli effect through the canyon. They also lived in mountain caves and clay dwellings and occupied them between the sixth and fourteenth centuries. The Anasazi planted life giving corn on the “green tables” above them and retreated to the cliff dwellings for protection from the elements and warring tribes. Archaeologists speculate that a 24 year drought finally drove the people to abandon their community.

When we were walking the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings I noticed a display that was seared in my memory to this day. The archaeologists exploring the site had discovered a very important find. It was a large clay pot thrown and decorated in the ancient Pueblo Indian style. And it contained the most priceless treasure that the people possessed. The departing people had hidden a cache of seed corn for another season of planting. Agriculture societies must always set aside enough of the harvest to provide seeds for the next year’s life sustaining crop. Interestingly, the Essenes had accomplished the same objective by hiding these priceless scrolls in clay jars so that scholars could have the benefit of examining some of the earliest Biblical writings in existence 2,000 years later. The arid climates and caves had preserved both the seed corn and the scrolls for future generations. And once they had been exposed to the light, they both could germinate into new life!

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