Was formerly very plentiful in Palestine, and hence the frequent expressions of Scripture which import that that country was a land flowing with milk and honey, Le 20:24. Wild bee honey was often found in hollow trees and clefts in the rocks, De 32:13; Ps 81:16; and on this John the Baptist fed, Mt 3:4. Honey was highly prized, Ps 19:10; Pr 5:3; 27:7. Modern travellers observe that it is still very common there, and that the inhabitants mix it in all their sauces. Forskal says the caravans of Mecca bring honey from Arabia to Cairo, and that he has often seen honey flowing in the woods in Arabia. It would seem that this flowing honey is bee-honey, and this fact illustrates the story of Jonathan, 1Sa 14:25,27. But there is also a vegetable honey that is very plentiful in the East. Burckhardt, speaking of the productions of the Ghor, or valley of the Jordan, says one of the most interesting productions of this place is the Beyrouk honey, as the Arabs call it. It was described to him as a juice dropping from the leaves and twigs of a tree called Gharrab, of the size of an olive tree, with leaves like those of the popular, but somewhat broader. The honey collects on the leaves like dew, and is gathered from them, or from the ground under the tree. Another vegetable product is referred to in the Bible as honey, 2Co 13:14. It is syrup, prepared by boiling down the juice of dates, etc. That made from grapes is called dibs, and is much used by the Arabs as a condiment with food. It resembles thin molasses, and is pleasant to the taste, Ge 43:11.
(3.) Debash denotes bee-honey (Jg 14:8); but also frequently a vegetable honey distilled from trees (Ge 43:11; Eze 27:17). In these passages it may probably mean "dibs," or syrup of grapes, i.e., the juice of ripe grapes boiled down to one-third of its bulk.
Canaan was a "land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex 3:8). Milk and honey were among the chief dainties in the earlier ages, as they are now among the Bedawin; and butter and honey are also mentioned among articles of food (Isa 7:15). The ancients used honey instead of sugar (Ps 119:103; Pr 24:13); but when taken in great quantities it caused nausea, a fact referred to in Pr 25:16-17 to inculcate moderation in pleasures. Honey and milk also are put for sweet discourse (Song 4:11).
(See BEE.) Bees deposit it in the crevices of rocks (Ps 81:16), and in hollow trees. Its "dropping" symbolizes speech, sweet, loving, and profitable (Song 4:11). The word of God (Ps 19:10). As wine and meat express strong spiritual nourishment in faith, so honey and milk sometimes symbolize incipient faith (Song 5:1). The vegetable honey exuded from trees, as the Tamarix mannifera, and is found only in small globules which must he carefully collected and strained, so that it cannot be what Jonathan ate in the wood (1Sa 14:25), or the "wild honey" which John Baptist ate (Mt 3:4). Honey was forbidden in meat offerings, for it soon turns sour and was used for making vinegar (Pliny, 21:48). It produces fermentation, which is a symbol of the working of corruption in the heart (Le 2:11-12; 1Co 5:7).
The appreciation of honey by the Hebrews from the earliest times, and its abundance in Canaan, are evident from the oft-recurring description of that country as a 'land flowing with milk and honey' (Ex 3:8,17 onwards). In the absence of any mention of bee-keeping in OT, it is almost certain that this proverbial expression has reference to the honey of the wild bee (see Bee). The latter had its nest in the clefts of rocks, hence the 'honey out of the rock' of De 32:13, in hollow tree-trunks (1Sa 14:26, but the Heb. text is here in disorder), and even, on occasion, in the skeleton of an animal (Jg 14:8 ff.). In later times, as is evident from the Mishna, bee-keeping was widely practised by the Jews. The hives were of straw or wicker-work. Before removing the combs the bee-keepers stupefied the bees with the fumes of charcoal and cow-dung, burnt in front of the hives.
In Bible times honey was not only relished by itself (cf. Sir 11:3 'the bee is little, but her fruit is the chief of sweet things'), and as an accompaniment to other food (Mt 3:4; Mr 1:6 'locusts and wild honey,' Lu 24:42, AV with fish), but was also largely used in the making of 'bakemeats' and all sorts of sweet cakes (Ex 16:31), sugar being then, of course, unknown. Although it formed part of the first-fruits presented at the sanctuary, honey was excluded from the altar, owing to its liability to fermentation.
Honey for domestic use was kept in earthen jars (1Ki 14:3 English Version 'cruse'), in which, doubtless, it was also put for transport (Ge 43:11) and export (Eze 27:17). Many scholars, however, would identify the 'honey' of the two passages last cited with the grape syrup (the Arabic dibs, equivalent of the Heb. debash, 'honey') of 'Honey' in Encyclop
This was so plentiful in Palestine, that the country was often described as a land 'flowing with milk and honey.' Ex 3:8,17. It is symbolical of what is sweet in nature; to be partaken of with discretion, lest it cause vomiting. Pr 25:16,27. It was strictly forbidden to add honey to the offerings of the Lord made by fire. Le 2:11. What is of nature, though it be sweetness, can have no place in what is offered to God. The Lord Jesus when in service on earth said to His mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" though when His service was over He commended her to John.
The Hebrew debash in the first place applied to the product of the bee, to which exclusively we give the name of honey. All travellers agree in describing Palestine as a land "flowing with milk and honey,"
bees being abundant even in the remote parts of the wilderness, where they deposit their honey in the crevices of rocks or in hollow trees. In some parts of northern Arabia the hills are so well stocked with bees that no sooner are hives placed than they are occupied. In the second place the term debash applies to a decoction of the juice of the grape, which is still called dibs, and which forms an article of commerce in the East, it was this, and not ordinary bee-honey, which Jacob sent to Joseph,
and which the Tyrians purchased from Palestine.
A third kind has been described by some writers as a "vegetable" honey, by which is meant the exudations of certain trees and shrubs, such as the Tamarix mannifera, found in the peninsula of Sinai, or the stunted oaks of Luristan and Mesopotamia . The honey which Jonathan ate in the wood,
and the "wild honey" which supported John the Baptist,
have been referred to this species. But it was probably the honey of wild bees.
HONEY, ???. It is probable, that it was is order to keep the Jews at a distance from the customs of the Heathen, who were used to offer honey in their sacrifices, that God forbade it to be offered to him, that is to say, burnt upon the altar, Le 2:11; but at the same time he commanded that the first-fruits of it should be presented. These first-fruits and offerings were designed for the support and sustenance of the priests, and were not consumed upon the altar. In hot weather, the honey burst the comb, and ran down the hollow trees or rocks, where, in the land of Judea, the bees deposited great store of it. This, flowing spontaneously, was the best and most delicious, as it was quite pure, and clear from all dregs and wax. The Israelites called it ????, wood honey. It is therefore improperly rendered "honeycomb," 1Sa 14:27; Song 5:1; in both which places it means the honey that has distilled from the trees, as distinguished from the domestic, which was eaten with the comb. Hasselquist says, that between Acra and Nazareth, great numbers of wild bees breed, to the advantage of the inhabitants; and Maundrell observes of the great plain near Jericho, that he perceived in it, in many places, a smell of honey and wax as strong as if he had been in an apiary. Milk and honey were the chief dainties of the earlier ages, and continue to be so of the Bedoween Arabs now. So butter and honey are several times mentioned in Scripture as among the most delicious refreshments, 2Sa 17:29;
Job 20:17; Song 4:11; Isa 7:15. Thus Irby and Mangles, in their Travels, relate, "They gave us some honey and butter together, with bread to dip in it, Narsah desiring one of his men to mix the two ingredients for us, as we were awkward at it. The Arab, having stirred the mixture up well with his fingers, showed his dexterity at consuming, as well as mixing, and recompensed himself for his trouble by eating half of it." The wild honey, ???? ??????, mentioned to have been a part of the food of John the Baptist, Mt 3:4, was probably such as he got in the rocks and hollows of trees. Thus, "honey out of the stony rock," Ps 81:16; De 32:13.