Archaeologists might have identified Jezreel winery featured in Bible

The winery was first discovered in 2013 and exposed in several seasons of excavations in the following years. It presents several installations carved into the bedrock.

MOSAICS, like this one from Beit She’an, can provide insight into winemaking in ancient times. (photo credit: DANI KRONENBERG / THE ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)
MOSAICS, like this one from Beit She’an, can provide insight into winemaking in ancient times.
(photo credit: DANI KRONENBERG / THE ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)
In the biblical books of Kings I and II, the winery of Jezreel is the setting of some of the most gruesome episodes of greed, violence, sin and divine retribution. Researchers have identified elements that confirm the excavation carried out in northern Israel is compatible with the biblical narrative, according to a paper published in the latest issue of the Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies.
Aerial photo of the winery after excavation in 2013. View to the northeast. OURTESY OF THE JEZREEL EXPEDITION Aerial photo of the winery after excavation in 2013. View to the northeast. OURTESY OF THE JEZREEL EXPEDITION
The winery was first discovered in 2013 and exposed in several seasons of excavations in following years. It presents several installations carved into the bedrock.
“Naboth the Jezreelite owned a vineyard in Jezreel, adjoining the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it as a vegetable garden, since it is right next to my palace. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange; or, if you prefer, I will pay you the price in money.’ But Naboth replied, ‘The LORD forbid that I should give up to you what I have inherited from my fathers!’” reads I King 1:4 (translation Sefaria.org).
It is currently impossible to date with certainty the remains of the ancient winery that was uncovered not far from Jezreel, a settlement that has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years, the lead author of the study, Dr. Norma Franklin of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, told The Jerusalem Post. However, different factors support the idea that whether or not there was a man called Naboth, whoever authored the story must have been aware of the existence of that winery, the only one in the compatible area, she said.
“With these kinds of structures, we can assess when was the last time that they were used – in this case quite late, around the first century CE – but not when they were built,” Franklin said. “The events that are described in the Bible are usually considered to take place around the ninth century BCE. It is possible that the winery already existed back then, but it is hard to say. However, some scholars believe that the story was actually written down later, around the sixth century BCE, when we can state for certain that the winery was already operating. There is no way to know whether what is narrated in the Bible happened exactly as related, but the narrative must have existed.”
To date the findings, the researchers compared the typology of the installations with similar ones in the region from a variety of periods.
The wine-making technology used in Jezreel was pretty archaic, involving people treading the grapes with their feet, probably not more than four people at a time, Franklin said.
Moreover, later wineries were usually built not in the fields, as in the case of the Jezreel winery, but directly in the village, she said.
“Another element that was very exciting for us was that several years ago, a nearby kibbutz sampled the soil in the area to find out if and where it would be possible for them to start growing grapes,” Franklin said. “The results showed that in the whole area there was only a small zone that would be good for vineyards, exactly where the ancient winery stood.”
According to the biblical narrative, King Ahab did manage to lay his hands on Naboth’s winery with a trick and the help of his wife, Jezebel, by accusing the man of defiling God and having him killed. For this sin, the king incurred God’s wrath against himself and his lineage, as the prophet Elijah announced to him.
Indeed, several years later, the prophecy would be fulfilled, and dozens of descendants of Ahab, including his son and successor to the throne, Joram, would die at the hands of Jehu, an army commander, in a confrontation that once again started in the winery of Jezreel.
Excavations currently are not taking places at the site while the archaeologists focus on publishing their findings during several years of research, Franklin said.