Apologetics, Archaeology, z11
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Is an ancient jug for “inferior wine” evidence of King Solomon’s reign?


Inscription reveals ancient wine jug belonged to King Solomon. Photo courtesy Dr. Eilat Mazar by Ouria Tadmor

Inscription reveals ancient wine jug belonged to King Solomon. Photo credit Dr. Eilat Mazar taken by Ouria Tadmor

The remnants of a jug found in July 2013 near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem provides evidence of King Solomon’s kingdom. Excavators discovered two shards of the rim beneath the floor of  an ancient building dated to the 10th century BC.

There were seven letters etched on the two pieces. The text was written in an ancient script called Ophel — a 3,000 year old alphabetical text. Professor Gershon Galil of Israel’s University of Haifa believes this is an early form of “southern Hebrew” that used two letters (yods) to spell wine instead of the current one.

The first four letters referred to either the 20th or 13th year of Solomon’s reign.

However, due to breakage, you can only see the top part of the last three letters. But with what was remaining, professor Galil has a pretty good idea what they meant. He believes they read “yah-yin chap-lak” which means “inferior wine.”

This text was simply a label describing the ownership and contents of the jug. Since someone etched the words on prior to firing, it shows a government administration was clearly in existence and was ordering jugs for storage of specific items.

Just as importantly it shows writing was happening in the 10th century BC which confirms the writing of Old Testament books such as 1 and 2 Samuel and Judges. Liberals believed these books were written later because according to their theory writing was not happening at that time. The shards of pottery clearly dispel that Liberal myth.

The pottery also puts Solomon in Jerusalem earlier than the skeptics want us to believe.

What would a king do with inferior wine?

The damaged letters interpreted. Image Gershon Galil

The last three damaged letters interpreted. Image Gershon Galil

So what use would King Solomon’s administration have for “inferior wine?”

King Solomon was involved in a number of construction projects including the Temple and a controversial second palace which forced Solomon into damage control to justify its construction.

Solomon says because the Ark of  the Covenant had been in David’s palace, he couldn’t allow his new bride — an Egyptian princess — to live in the old palace because her presence would desecrate it (2 Chronicles 8:11).

The fact he had to explain it shows people were annoyed and for good reason.

The tax system worked a bit differently back then. Taxes could be paid in many ways. You could pay taxes with produce or money. But often during building projects, kings required people to give time to construction.

You can see this reference in 1 Kings 9:15:

Now this is the account of the forced labor which King Solomon levied to build the house of the Lord, his own house (the palace), the Millo, the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer.  (I Kings 9:15 NASV)

The forced labour was called a levy or tax. People had to work on projects for specific periods of time as their tax payment.  So as Solomon was taxing the labour of his citizens, he realized it would be pushing it to have them also provide their own food and drink during construction. So Solomon provided the wine, but he wasn’t going to spend any more money than he had too, so he put “inferior wine” on the menu.

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