Monday, November 19, 2012

3000 Year Old Beehives in Israel

It seems that critics of the Book of Mormon have no end of thoughts and ideas why this ancient writing is a hoax and that Joseph Smith was a fraud, but seem to have little knowledge about that which they so vociferously write. Take this last comment sent to me by email from a reader of this blog:
Comment: “The idea that the Lehites found honey and, by inference, bees, in an unoccupied desert land where bees are neither indigenous nor have any way of being there in 600 B.C. is ridiculous. Neither the Arabs, Romans or Phoenicians had yet been there along the coast in what is now present day Oman. If your Joseph Smith was really a prophet as you claim and interpreted an ancient script, what a stupid mistake in placing bees in this isolated area. Besides, claiming that these Jews knew about honey and bees is another faux pas since the Isrealites did not know of bees, for there is no mention in the bible that the Jews cultivated the honey bee. The mention of a Land of Milk and Honey is an euphuism, not actual, since scholars claim that ancient Israelis made honey from fruits such as figs and dates” Hendley.
Response: You have covered several points. Let me answer them one at a time. First of all, in my book Who Really Settled Mesoamerica? how the bees got to Oman is covered quite thoroughly, complete with pictures of ancient caves of honey bees. Perhaps you might want to read it for at least an historical view on the subject, as well as an understanding of bees living in the wild.
In short, the Jaredites from Mesopotamia, where bees thrived in 2000 B.C., brought them to the area you mention in Oman. It was obviously a plan of the Lord to have them brought to this area for the future need of the later arriving Lehi Colony, as well as for their own use while living there for four years, not to mention their bringing them to the New World.
Secondly, the Jews were one of the earliest cultivators and keepers of bees. In a “Honey of a discovery,” article in September 2008 Science News, archaeologists have now found, in an ancient Israeli site “evidence of the oldest known archaeological example of beekeeping” in three rows of ancient hives in a courtyard that used to be part of a large architectural complex during the 10th to 9th centuries B.C. The discovery in 2007 of remnants of ancient honey combs, beeswax and intact hives, attesting to a 3,000 year old beekeeping industry in Israel, which dates to the time of biblical accounts of King David and King Solomon.
Between 2005 and 2007 at the huge Iron Age settlement in an earthen mound called Tel Rehov, archaeologists identified the remains of honeybees—including workers, drones, pupae, and larvae — inside about 30 clay cylinders thought to have been used as beehives at the site of Tel Rehov in the Jordan valley in northern Israel. This is the first such discovery from ancient times—no evidence of beekeeping has emerged at any other archaeological sites in the Middle East or surrounding regions before this find.
Archaeologists claim that cultures as varied as Greece, Egypt and Israel kept bees in ancient times. Left: A researcher grasps the lid handle to a 3,000-year-old beehive, part of an extensive apiary in ancient Israel containing the oldest known remnants of beekeeping; Right: Traditionally beekeepers encouraged bees to store their honey in rectangular frames embossed with a honeycomb pattern and enclosed with wooden bars on all sides similar to those found at Tel Rehov
"Although texts and wall paintings suggest that bees were kept in the Ancient Near East for the production of precious wax and honey, archaeological evidence for beekeeping has never been found," the researchers, led by Guy Bloch of Israel’s Hebrew University of Jerusalem, wrote in a paper in the June 8 issue of the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The exceptional preservation of these remains provides unequivocal identification of the clay cylinders as the most ancient beehives yet found, and was already an elaborate agricultural practice 3000 years ago," he added.
The beehives—made of straw and unbaked clay—were found in orderly rows, with 100 hives. Ezra Marcus, expert of Haifa University, said the finding was “a glimpse of ancient beekeeping seen in texts and ancient art from the Near East.” The ancient apiary contained at least 75 and perhaps as many as 200 beehives. A clay platform of the same width as a nearby row of hives probably served as a foundation for some of the hives. The facility held more than one million bees and had a potential annual yield of 1100 pounds of honey and 155 pounds of beeswax.
All of this shows that the ancient Israelites hundreds of years before Lehi’s time cultivated honey bees. Lehi would have known of this and, in fact, having fruit seeds of all kinds would obviously have had fruit tress on his property outside Jerusalem. One would think, as a companion thought, he would have had bees there. Yet, though Lehi could have obtained bees to take with him, the Lord obviously did not have him take bees along as he did the Jaredites.
One might wonder why?
One simple answer is that the Lord had brought the Jaredites to the same place to build their barges that he later would bring Lehi to build his ship. Obviously, then, the Lord would have known that bees and honey were available there, as well as animals, so did not have Lehi take either with him to the land he called Bountiful.
One of the mistakes critics make, and even many members, is that they fail to understand that the Lord knows everything from beginning to end. He is, indeed, Alpha and Omega, and as such, would have plans that are far more detailed, inclusive and all-encompassing, typically far beyond the understanding and even the thinking of man.


  1. If Israel had no bees, how did the plant life reproduce without cross pollenation? Or was there no plant life that required this?

  2. Excellent point. I wonder how the critics would answer that one... :)