Did You Know?

Do ants really prepare their food in summer and gather their supplies in the harvest?

Proverbs 6:6-8 says: “Go to the ant, you lazy one; see its ways and become wise. Although it has no commander, officer or ruler, it prepares its food even in the summer; it has gathered its food supplies even in the harvest.”

Several species of ant do, in fact, store food. Likely, the species Solomon referred to​—and the most common in Israel today—​is the harvester ant (Messor semirufus).

According to one source, “foraging harvester ants leave their nests during favorable weather to search for food . . . [and] collect seeds throughout the warmer months of the year.” They may pick seeds from plants or collect them from the ground. The insects build underground nests close to fields, granaries, or threshing floors, where grain can be found.

Within the nest itself, the ants store food supplies in a series of flat chambers connected by a network of galleries. Their granary chambers may measure up to five inches [12 cm] in diameter and half an inch [1 cm] in height. Well-supplied colonies of harvester ants are thus said to be capable of surviving “for over 4 months with no outside source of food or water.”

What was involved in being cupbearer to the king?

Nehemiah was cupbearer to Persian King Artaxerxes. (Nehemiah 1:11) In the royal courts of the ancient Middle East, the king’s cupbearer was no menial servant. On the contrary, he was a high-ranking official. Classical literature and a wealth of ancient pictorial representations of cupbearers allow us to draw a number of conclusions regarding Nehemiah’s role at the Persian court.

The cupbearer would taste the king’s wine to protect him from poisoning. The cupbearer thus had the king’s unreserved confidence. “The great need for trustworthy court attendants is underscored by the intrigues which were endemic to the Achaemenid [Persian] court,” says scholar Edwin M. Yamauchi. The cupbearer was likely also a favorite official who had considerable influence with the king. His close proximity to the monarch on a daily basis may have enabled him to decide who had access to the king.

Such a position may have had a bearing on the success of Nehemiah’s request to be allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls. Nehemiah must have been highly valued by the king. The Anchor Bible Dictionary observes: “The king’s only reply was ‘How soon will you come back?’”​—Nehemiah 2:1-6.

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Relief from the Persian palace of Persepolis

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Cupbearer

Crown Prince Xerxes

Darius the Great

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© The Bridgeman Art Library International