The machine used for making wine from grapes. Wine making has always been a major industry in Syria-Palestine. The ancient Egyptian story of Sinuhe, dating from the time of the Middle Bronze Age (about 2200-1550 B.C.), describes this land as having “more wine than water.”
In Old Testament times the presses for making wine were usually cut or hewed out of rock (Isaiah 5:2) and were connected by channels to lower rock-cut vats where the juice was allowed to collect and ferment. The juice was squeezed from the grapes by treading over them with the feet (Job 24:11;
Amos 9:13). Recent excavations at tel Aphek have uncovered two unusually large plastered wine presses dating from the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 B.C.). The presses were connected to large collection pits which still contained the Canaanite jars for the storage of the wine.
After the juice had fermented, it was collected into jars or wineskins (Matthew 9:17, and parallels). At ancient Gibeon, archaeologists discovered a major wine-producing installation dating from the about 700 B.C. In addition to the presses and fermentation tanks, 63 rock-cut cellars were found with a storage capacity of 25,000 gallons of wine. In these cellars the wine could be kept at a constant cool temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Both royal presses and cellars are mentioned in the Bible (1 Chronicles 27:27;
Zechariah 14:10). Other activities besides the making of wine could go on at a press site (Judges 6:11;
Judges 7:25). By the New Testament period, both beam presses and presses with mosaic pavements were in use.
The harvesting and treading of the grapes was a time of joy and celebration (Isaiah 16:10;
Deuteronomy 16:13-15); and the image of the abundance of wine is used in the Bible to speak of God's salvation and blessing (Proverbs 3:10;
Amos 9:13). But God's judgment is also vividly portrayed as the treading of the wine press (Isaiah 63:2-3;
Revelation 14:19-20). See Agriculture; Vine; Wine.
John C. H. Laughlin