Song of Solomon 5: The Torment of Separation & Cedars of Lebanon

Ancient Honeycomb Reveals the Etruscans as Beekeepers
“The importance of beekeeping in the ancient world is well known through an abundance of iconographic, literary, archaeometric, and ethnographic sources,” says Lorenzo Castellano, who is an archaeometry graduate student with New York University’s Study of the Ancient World Institute. What makes this discovery about ancient beekeeping even more phenomenal is the fact honeycombs are rarely found at such sites due to how perishable they are.

Ancient Confirmation
This discovery confirms the words of Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (the Etruscans eventually joined the Roman Empire). Over 400 years after the Forcello’s site’s destruction, Pliny once wrote about Ostiglia, a town roughly 20 miles from Forcello. Per Pliny, villagers would place hives onto boats and then carry them five miles at night upstream. “At dawn, the bees come out and feed, returning every day to the boats, which change their position until, when they have sunk low in the water under the mere weight, it is understood that the hives are full, and then they are taken back and the honey is extracted.”

1 I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.

The 9,500-year-old honeycomb city of Çatalhöyük.
Catalhoyuk is oldest town in world with large Neolithic and Chalcolithic best preserved city settlement in Cumra, Konya. It was built in about 7500 B.C.

Overlooking the Konya Plain in Turkey lies the remarkable and unique ancient city of Çatalhöyük, the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. At a time when most of the world’s people were nomadic hunter-gatherers, Çatalhöyük was a bustling town of as many as 10,000 people.

“The neolithic civilization revealed at Çatalhöyük shines like a supernova among the rather dim galaxy of contemporary peasant cultures,” says James Mellaart, excavator of Çatalhöyük and premier authority on the ancient Near East.

Forming a large hill atop the Southern Anatolian Plateau, the site is like a massive labyrinth of mud-brick houses, often described as a ‘honeycomb city’, made up of 18 successive layers of building representing distinct stages of the city and reflecting different eras of its history. The bottom layer is as early as 7,500 BC while the top layer dates back to 5,600 BC, a point in time in which the city was mysteriously abandoned and moved several miles away across the Carsamba Cay River to Çatalhöyük West, which appears to have been occupied for another 700 years until it too, was abandoned.

2 I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.

3 I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?

4 My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.

5 I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.

6 I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.

7 The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.

8 I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.

9 What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?

10 My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

11 His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.

12 His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.

13 His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

14 His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.

15 His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

16 His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Cedar Trees
The mountains of Lebanon were once shaded by thick cedar forests and the tree is the symbol of the country. After centuries of persistent deforestation, the extent of these forests has been markedly reduced.

It was once said that a battle occurred between the demigods and the humans over the beautiful and divine forest of Cedar trees near southern Mesopotamia. This forest, once protected by the Sumerian god Enlil, was completely bared of its trees when humans entered its grounds 4700 years ago, after winning the battle against the guardians of the forest, the demigods.[3] The story also tells that Gilgamesh used cedar wood to build his city.

Over the centuries, cedar wood was exploited by the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Israelites and Turks. The Phoenicians used the Cedars for their merchant fleets. They needed timbers for their ships and the Cedar woods made them the “first sea trading nation in the world”.

The Egyptians used cedar resin for the mummification process and the cedar wood for some of “their first hieroglyph bearing rolls of papyrus”. In the Bible, Solomon procured cedar timber to build the Temple in Jerusalem. The emperor Hadrian claimed these forests as an imperial domain, and destruction of the cedar forests was temporarily halted.

Cedars of Lebanon

Huge Trees
The tallest trees in the world are redwoods, which tower above the ground in California. These trees can easily reach heights of 300 feet.

Among the redwoods, a tree named Hyperion tops them all. Standing at 380 feet tall, Hyperion also shares its name with the titan god of heavenly light. Coming in second for the world’s tallest trees is Helios standing at 374 feet. And for the bronze medal we have another redwood called Icarus, at 371 feet high. The largest tree by volume and not height or circumference is a sequoia called General Sherman. 275 feet tall with a circumference of nearly 103 feet.

The tallest tree ever measured was not a Sequoia sempervirens, but a type of Eucalyptus, an Australian hardwood tree. In 1872 forester William Ferguson spotted an extremely tall mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) near the Watts River, Victoria, Australia. Purportedly he was 132.6 m (435 feet) tall.

The Giants Cedars are mentioned 47 times in the Bible.
That’s an awful lot of times! Now we know these trees were GIANT by particular passages in the Bible. In Ezekial 31:3 we read, ‘Behold, Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon With beautiful branches and forest shade, And very high, And its top was among the clouds. The CEDARS were AMONG the clouds! They have to be pretty tall to be that high. In Psalms 80:10 it states, The mountains were covered with ITS shadow, And the cedars of God with its boughs. So the CEDARS were TALLER and BIGGER than the mountains.

A tall and majestic evergreen tree (averaging 120 feet in its maturity), the cedar of Lebanon was highly valued in antiquity.  It’s durability and dimensions provided ships and furnishings, and Egyptians prized its resin for mummification.

Nebuchadnezzar wrote hauling felled cedars to Babylon from Mount Lebanon, an abundance source of timber in the ancient Near East (cf Isa 37:24).  The temple and palace complex in Jerusalem were lavishly adorned with cedar (1 Kgs 7:2; 1 Chr 22:24), and cedar wood was used for purification rituals (Lev 14:4).

Attesting to the use of cedar in monumental architecture, remnants of charred cedar beam were found in a Middle Bronze Age palace at Lachish (16th century B.C.).

The height and commanding presence of the species yields vivid Biblical images.  Yahweh’s majesty stands above all cedars (Ps 148:9,13) and his voice is so powerful that it shatters them (Ps 29:5).   

The development of a righteous person is compared to the cedar’s steady maturing process (Ps 95:12).  In the Song of Solomon the lover’s appearance evokes the tree’s exquisite worth (Sol 5:15).  Yet, the cedar’s height can also be human pride and arrogance (Isa 2:12-15; Eze 31:3, 10-12).