Song of Solomon 8 & Archaeology and the Date of Song of Solomon

Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he gave over the vineyard to caretakers. For its fruit one would have to pay a thousand silver pieces. My vineyard is at my own disposal; the thousand pieces are for you, Solomon, and two hundred for the caretakers of its fruit.

1 O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised.

Baal Hammon
King Solomon didn’t worship Baal Hammon like the pagans did. Why he put his vineyard there is unknown, but it might be due to the soil or possibly for business.

Baal Hammon, properly Baʿal Ḥammon or Ḥamon was the chief god of Carthage. He was a weather god considered responsible for the fertility of vegetation and esteemed as King of the Gods. He was depicted as a bearded older man with curling ram’s horns. Baʿal Ḥammon’s female cult partner was Tanit.

Cult and attributes
The worship of Baʿal Hammon flourished in the Phoenician colony of Carthage. His supremacy among the Carthaginian gods is believed to date to the fifth century BC, after relations between Carthage and Tyre were broken off at the time of the Battle of Himera (480 BC). Modern scholars identify him variously with the Northwest Semitic god El or with Dagon.

In Carthage and North Africa Baʿal Hammon was especially associated with the ram and was worshiped also as Baʿal Qarnaim (“Lord of Two Horns”) in an open-air sanctuary at Jebel Boukornine (“the two-horned hill”) across the bay from Carthage, in Tunisia.

The interpretatio graeca identified him with the Titan Cronus. In ancient Rome, he was identified with Saturn, and the cultural exchange between Rome and Carthage as a result of the Second Punic War may have influenced the development of the festival of Saturnalia.

Greco-Roman sources report that the Carthaginians burned their children as offerings to Baʿal Hammon. (See “Moloch” for a discussion of these traditions and conflicting thoughts on the matter.) Attributes of his Romanized form as an African Saturn indicate that Hammon (Amunus in Philo’s work) was a fertility god.

2 I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.

3 His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me.

4 I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please.

5 Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee.

6 Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.

7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.

8 We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?

9 If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.

10 I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favor.
11 Solomon had a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.

12 My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.

13 Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it.

14 Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.

Archaeology and the Date of Song of Solomon 

Post-Exilic Era
The Babylonian captivity or Babylonian exile is the period in Jewish history during which a number of people from the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylonia. After the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BCE, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged Jerusalem, resulting in tribute being paid by King Jehoiakim.

Jehoiakim refused to pay tribute in Nebuchadnezzar’s fourth year, which led to another siege in Nebuchadnezzar’s seventh year, culminating with the death of Jehoiakim and the exile of King Jeconiah, his court and many others; Jeconiah’s successor Zedekiah and others were exiled in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year; a later deportation occurred in Nebuchadnezzar’s twenty-third year.

The dates, numbers of deportations, and numbers of deportees given in the biblical accounts vary. These deportations are dated to 597 BCE for the first, with others dated at 587/586 BCE, and 582/581 BCE respectively.
After the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE, exiled Judeans were permitted to return to Judah. According to the biblical book of Ezra, construction of the second temple in Jerusalem began around 537 BCE. All these events are considered significant in Jewish history and culture, and had a far-reaching impact on the development of Judaism.

Archaeological studies have revealed that not all of the population of Judah was deported, and that, although Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, other parts of Judah continued to be inhabited during the period of the exile. The return of the exiles was a gradual process rather than a single event, and many of the deportees or their descendants did not return, becoming the ancestors of the Iraqi Jews.

Today many scholars consider the Song of Songs to have been written during the post-exilic era, in spite of the fact that the “official” title of the book, “Solomon’s Song of Songs” (Sol 1:1), associates it with the time of Solomon.

Archeology has provided several good reasons for believing that the Song was indeed written early, in or around the 10 century B.C.

Archeological data from this period indicates that this was a time during a time which Israel was under strong central authority, as the Bible suggests.  Many scholars deny that there ever was a great kingdom of David and Solomon.  Some go as far as to theorize that these men were legendary rather than historical.

Obviously, if there was no Solomonic Kingdom we could not postulate that the Song was written during the Solomonic period.  However, archeology does support the Biblical portrait of Solomon’s times.

According to 1 Kings 9:15, Solomon did indeed build the temple, his own palace, a structure called the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem, as well as the cities of Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.

The temple and palace of Solomon are lost and the location of his Millo is subject to debate, but archeology confirms that every aspect of Solomon’s temple, as described in the Bible, conforms to what we know of other temples form this time and region.

The cities of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer have been excavated and found to have similar systems of fortification and gateways that date from the time of Solomon, suggesting that they were constructed by royal engineers who worked from a common blueprint.

Tel Hazor is one of the largest, most important Biblical sites in Canaanite and Israelite periods.

The Bible gave it the title: “the head of all those kingdoms.”

The excavating site brings you back 3-4 thousand years to the time this mighty city was the gateway between Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Oftentimes great literature flourishes during a period of national power and  prosperity (e.g. Virgil wrote the Aeneid at one of the high points of Roman history, the Augustan Age).  Thus, the association of the Song of Song with Solomon’s era makes sense.

During the latter part of the second millennium B.C. a distinctive style of love poetry flourished in Egypt, in some ways strikingly similar to the Song of Songs.  Although the message of the Song is different from that of the Egyptian material, it’s clear that the Hebrew poetry uses some of the same literacy conventions as that of the Egyptian poetry.

First Kings 9:16 indicates that Solomon, having  married an Egyptian princess, had good relations with Egypt.  It’s reasonable to assume that this was a time of close communication and commerce between the two nations.

Thus the Solomonic era is the very time at which we could most plausibly suggest that Egyptian love poetry came to be read and appreciated in the royal court of Israel.

Tel Megiddo was one of the most important cities in Canaan and Israel in the Biblical period.

It was at Megiddo that the Canaanite city-states gathered to rebel against Egyptian domination.

According to the Bible, Joshua captured Megiddo and King Solomon built up Megiddo.

In 732 B.C. it was captured by the Assyrian King Tiglathpileser III and served as Assyrian province.

The Book of Revelation places the battle of the last days at Armageddon (Megiddo).

Song of Songs 6:4 indicates that at the time this poem was written Jerusalem and Tirzah were the two most magnificent cities in Israel.  Tirzah (located in the north at Tell el-Farah) was a great city in the northern part of Israel during Solomon’s day.

After the kingdom split in two it became the capital of the northern kingdom under Jeroboam I and remained so until Omri (r.c. 885-874 B.C.) built Samaria.  Thereafter it declined and by the postexilic period it had ceased to exist.

It’s unreasonable to argue that a poet of the postexilic world would have paired Jerusalem with Tirzah, which at that time was nothing more than an abandoned mound.  However, it is entirely reasonable that a poet from the 10th century B.C. would have treated Tirzah as Jerusalem’s counterpart and equal.