Mixed wine – in the Song of Songs and at Tell es-Safi

As it is customary to read the book of Canticles (Song of Songs, Shir ha-Shirim) on the Sabbath that falls on Passover (and that is what was read in synagogues this last Saturday), I thought to mention an interesting biblical-archaeological connection appearing in the text.

 

In Cant. 7:3 we read (JPS): “Thy navel is like a round goblet, wherein no mingled wine is wanting; thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies”. The term “mingled wine” in Hebrew is mezeg. As is well-known, in many ancient cultures, it was standard practice to mix wine with water (or other additives), both to “water it down” and to spice it. This practice is mentioned several times in the biblical text, both in the form of “mezeg” but also using the cognate “masakh/mesekh” (e.g. Psalms 75:9). Both these terms clearly originate from the same word. 

Although Canticles is replete with late aspects, allowing a dating of the current version to the early Hellenistic period (4th-3rd centuries BCE), various aspects in the text can relate to the biblical world in general in many periods in cultures. One of these is the common use of “mixed wine” in the ancient near east. This is apparently quite common in the Philistine culture as well, the Philistines being people who liked to drink (see, e.g., the story of Samson and the heavily drinking Philistines). Archaeologically, this is attested as well, and a very common find at Philistine sites (such as Philistine Gath) are “wine sets” which enable both drinking, sieving and mixing of wine.

2 thoughts on “Mixed wine – in the Song of Songs and at Tell es-Safi

  1. Achish Melek Gat

    A short but fascinating commentary! Thanks Aren! Of course, we have our own sort of mezeg now-a-days, we put ice in our Coca Cola!

    AMG

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  2. arenmaeir

    I assume that this is when you use Coke for cleaning rust off of your car … (which in fact, does work!).
    Aren

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