According to the Hebrew Scriptures, God promised to bring the ancient Israelites into “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) It appears that most Scriptural references to honey describe the food produced by wild bees. The Bible says nothing about beekeeping in ancient Israel. However, a recent find in Israel’s Bet She’an Valley reveals that in ancient times its inhabitants practiced “beekeeping on an industrial level.”
At Tel Rehov, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology unearthed an apiary dating from the tenth to the early ninth centuries B.C.E.—the early period of Israel’s monarchy. This is the first time that ancient beehives were discovered in the Middle East. It is thought that the apiary originally contained some one hundred beehives arranged in rows and stacked at least three tiers high.
Each hive, says the university’s report on the find, was “a cylinder composed of unbaked clay . . . around 80 centimeters [30 inches] long and 40 centimeters [15 inches] in diameter. . . . Experienced beekeepers and scholars who visited the site estimated that as much as half a ton of honey could be culled each year from these hives.”