Is often alluded to in the Bible, as a symbol of pure, simple, and wholesome truth, Heb 5:12-13; 1Pe 2:2; and in connection with honey, to denote fertility and plenty, Ge 49:12; Nu 16:13; Jos 5:6. The Jews and their neighbors used not only the milk of cows, but also that of camels, sheep, and goats, Ge 32:15; De 32:14; Pr 27:27. See BUTTER and CHEESE.
(1.) Hebrew halabh, "new milk", milk in its fresh state (Jg 4:19). It is frequently mentioned in connection with honey (Ex 3:8; 13:5; Jos 5:6; Isa 7:15,22; Jer 11:5). Sheep (De 32:14) and goats (Pr 27:27) and camels (Ge 32:15), as well as cows, are made to give their milk for the use of man. Milk is used figuratively as a sign of abundance (Ge 49:12; Eze 25:4; Joe 3:18). It is also a symbol of the rudiments of doctrine (1Co 3:2; Heb 5:12-13), and of the unadulterated word of God (1Pe 2:2).
(2.) Heb hem'ah, always rendered "butter" in the Authorized Version. It means "butter," but also more frequently "cream," or perhaps, as some think, "curdled milk," such as that which Abraham set before the angels (Ge 18:8), and which Jael gave to Sisera (Jg 5:25). In this state milk was used by travellers (2Sa 17:29). If kept long enough, it acquired a slightly intoxicating or soporific power.
This Hebrew word is also sometimes used for milk in general (De 32:14; Job 20:17).
Children's food everywhere (1Pe 2:2; 1Co 3:2; Heb 5:12). In the East a leading element in men's diet also. "A land flowing with milk" symbolizes abundance (Ex 3:8; De 6:3). Chalab, "milk," means "fairness, fresh milk"; chemah is "milk coagulated", and is translated in KJV "butter"; rather leben, an Eastern preparation of milk (Jg 4:19; 5:25). Emblem of gospel blessings (Isa 55:1). In Job 21:24 translated for "breasts" "his milk vessels (Lee: Umbreit, his watering places for his herds) are full of milk." Also Job 20:17; 29:6, "I washed my steps with butter," i.e. wherever I stepped the richest plenty flowed for me.
Isa 60:16, "thou shalt suck the milk of the Gentiles," i.e. draw to thyself all their riches, or have them completely subject (Eze 25:4). The milk of sheep, camels, goats, and cows was used (De 32:14; Ge 32:15; Pr 27:27); "butter" in our sense occurs Pr 30:33. The leben; keeps for a considerable time, and so was suited to David's weary followers (2Sa 17:29). When the abundance of milk was due to the absence of tillage and of men to cultivate the lands, it was predicted as a scourge consequent on hostile invasion (Isa 7:22). Still offered in hospitality to the passing stranger, as by Abraham, Ge 18:8.
Milk was at all times an important article of diet among the Hebrews, and by ben-Sira is rightly assigned a prominent place among the principal things necessary for man's life (Sir 39:26). It was supplied by the females of the 'herd' and of the 'flock,' the latter term including both sheep and goats (De 32:14, where render 'sour milk [chem'
This from cows, goats, sheep and camels is plentifully used in the East. It is drunk in its natural condition, or shaken up in a skin into a sour curdled state, called in scripture 'butter.' Flocks and herds were so numerous, and wild honey so plenteous, that the country was fitly called 'a land flowing with milk and honey.' Ge 18:8; Ex 3:8,17; 23:19; Joe 3:18. Milk is regarded as such a necessary article of sustenance that it is associated with wine to prefigure that which grace now supplies, without money and without price, and which will be supplied to Israel in a future day. Isa 55:1. In the description of Israel's promised glory it is said, "Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles." Isa 60:16. In the N.T. milk is a symbol of the sustenance of God's word, 1Pe 2:2; and is also referred to as food for infants in contrast to the solid food used by adults. 1Co 3:2; Heb 5:12-13.
As an article of diet, milk holds a more important position in eastern countries than with us. It is not a mere adjunct in cookery, or restricted to the use of the young, although it is naturally the characteristic food of childhood, both from its simple and nutritive qualities.
and particularly as contrasted with meat,
but beyond this it is regarded as substantial food adapted alike to all ages and classes. Not only the milk of cows, but of sheep,
and of goats,
was used; that latter appears to have been most highly prized.