Vineyard below Lachish  

Wine & Vineyards

There were two levels of viticulture in Israel. As the biblical phrase "under their own vine and their own fig tree" (1 Kgs 4:25; Mic 4:4) implies, many households would have had a vine growing in the courtyard, perhaps climbing a tree. Besides this peasant level of cultivation, vineyards were also planted (classic descriptions of this are Is 5:1-2 & Ps 80:8-13). Often they were on the sides of hills (Is 5:1) that were unsuitable for grain crops because of the slope. Such cultivation of vines demanded high investment of time and labor. First the ground had to be terraced, rocks removed (Is 5:2; Ps 80:9) from the uphill side and used for a wall on the downhill side to retain soil and level the ground. Regular tasks included tending fruit, watering, pruning (Lev 25:4) and hoeing (Is 5:6). Predators, both two and four legged were kept away by walls (Ps 80:12), or were chased off (Ps 80:12-13), so temporary shelters or even permanent "watch-towers" (Is 5:2) were be constructed (Is 1:8). Such activity reached a peak as harvest approached. 

Wine was an important and valuable trade commodity (2 Chron 2:10, 15). The king was not only owner of vineyards, and producer of wine (Zech 14:10) but also as palace records on ostraca found at Samaria show, received both wine and oil from landowners' taxes.

At harvest, grapes were placed in baskets and carried to the winepress. Here the fruit was placed in the larger upper basin (which may have been cut from solid rock) and pressed by treading, accompanied by joyful shouts (Is 16:10; Jer 25:30; 48:33). The juice flowed down into a lower container, where fermentation probably began. The juice remained there at least overnight to settle. A second pressing was made from the skins, which was kept separate and produced a distinct sort of wine. The fermenting wine was placed in jars and stored (as fermentation continued) in caves or underground cisterns. When fermentation ended the hole was sealed and the seal marked the type and quality of the wine or its owner, as for example at Gibeon, an important wine-making center where a number of sealed or inscribed jar handles were discovered.


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