Old Testament parallels to Ugaritic writing - Menial labourers
The Legend of King Keret describes (among other things) the devastation brought on a country by an army. One section (around KTU 1.14 iii line 10) describes the preparation for, and the other (around KTU 1.14 v line 1) the actuality of this attack, and uses the following phrase to describe the menial labourers of the land:
Drive from the fields the woodcutters,|
From the threshing floors the straw-gatherers,
Drive from the well the water-drawers,
From the spring the bottle-fillers.
The context indicates that these people - in this case women - are the lowest in society, uninvolved in more important activities and probably not expecting to come to the attention of the army investing the cities.
This can be compared with the following phrases occurring in Deuteronomy and Joshua:
...men of Israel, together with your children and your wives, and the aliens living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water...
Let [the Gibeonites] live, but let them be wood-cutters and water-carriers for the entire community.
|Joshua 9:21, also 23 and 27|
Again, this phrase is referring to those who perform menial tasks for the community - in this case either the non-Israelite crowd travelling with the Israelites of the Exodus, or else the Gibeonites when they were taken on as vassals.
This phrase is only used in these places in the Old Testament, and not of manual labourers when they are referred to in later books. For example, in 2 Kings 25:12 it is recorded that Nebuchadnezzar left "the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.
" The focus here is on agricultural work rather than procurement of wood and water.
As a phrase for referring to menial labourers, the parallel to the Ugaritic material is only found in Deuteronomy and Joshua.