asher63 (asher63) wrote,

Nomadic vs. pastoral life in ancient Near East.

I've started reading 'The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture' by Yoram Hazony and so far it's very good. But there was a passage that jumped out at me because it made me think of something I'd just read in J. Bronowski's 'The Ascent of Man'.

Bronowski's theme of nomad versus settled life appears to proceed from an assumption exactly opposite to Bronowski's.

According to Hazony, Abel becomes "a shepherd - a man whose station is elevated in that he lives a life of relative ease, leaving the job of extracting nourishment from the ground to his sheep and goats. Abel thus embodies virtues that are associated with the nomadic societies that were the bane of ancient Near Eastern civilization: He is disobedient, preoccupied with improving his own lot and that of his dependents, and willing to overturn the inherited order to achieve this end."

By contrast, the nomadic shepherds Bronowski presents - the Bakhtiari - live a life of unremitting labor and movement, and eternally bound to tradition: "The only habits that survive are the old habits. The only ambition of the son is to be like the father."

So now I'm really curious to read the rest of Hazony's book, and to try to understand the two theories better. Maybe I am just misunderstanding, and they are not really in disagreement? Or perhaps they are both right and both wrong, and it's not really possible to generalize whether Ancient Near Eastern nomadic life was "harder" or "easier" than settled life because the particulars varied greatly over place and time?
Tags: bible, books, taom

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