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(1.) Heb. ya'ar, occurs only 1 Sam. 14:25, 27, 29; Cant. 5:1, where it denotes the honey of bees. Properly the word signifies a forest or copse, and refers to honey found in woods.
(2.) Nopheth, honey that drops (Ps. 19:10; Prov. 5:3; Cant. 4:11).
(3.) Debash denotes bee-honey (Judg. 14:8); but also frequently a vegetable honey distilled from trees (Gen. 43:11; Ezek. 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.
(4.) Tsuph, the cells of the honey-comb full of honey (Prov. 16:24; Ps. 19:10).
(5.) "Wild honey" (Matt. 3:4) may have been the vegetable honey distilled from trees, but rather was honey stored by bees in rocks or in trees (Deut. 32:13; Ps. 81:16; 1 Sam. 14:25-29).
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; Prov. 24:13); but when taken in great quantities it caused nausea, a fact referred to in Prov. 25:16, 17 to inculcate moderation in pleasures. Honey and milk also are put for sweet discourse (Cant. 4:11).
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," (Exodus 3:8
) 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, (Genesis 43:11
) and which the Tyrians purchased from Palestine. (Ezekiel 27:17
) 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, (1Ã‚Â Samuel 14:25
) and the "wild honey" which supported John the Baptist, (Matthew 3:42
) have been referred to this species. But it was probably the honey of wild bees.
- hun'-i (debhash; meli): One familiar with life in Palestine will recognize in debhash the Arabic dibs, which is the usual term for a sweet syrup made by boiling down the juice of grapes, raisins, carob beans, or dates. Dibs is seldom, if ever, used as a name for honey (compare Arabic 'asal), whereas in the Old Testament debhash probably had only that meaning. The honey referred to was in most cases wild honey (Dt 32:13
; Jdg 14:8,9
; 1 Sam 14:25,26,29,43
), although the offering of honey with the first-fruits would seem to indicate that the bees were also domesticated (2 Ch 31:5
). The bees constructed their honeycomb and deposited their honey in holes in the ground (1 Sam 14:25
); under rocks or in crevices between the rocks (Dt 32:13
; Ps 81:16
). They do the same today. When domesticated they are kept in cylindrical basket hives which are plastered on the outside with mud. The Syrian bee is an especially hardy type and a good honey producer. It is carried to Europe and America for breeding purposes.
In Old Testament times, as at present, honey was rare enough to be considered a luxury (Gen 43:11; 1 Ki 14:3). Honey was used in baking sweets (Ex 16:31). It was forbidden to be offered with the meal offering (Lev 2:11), perhaps because it was fermentable, but was presented with the fruit offering (2 Ch 31:5). Honey was offered to David's army (2 Sam 17:29). It was sometimes stored in the fields (Jer 41:8). It was also exchanged as merchandise (Ezek 27:17). In New Testament times wild honey was an article of food among the lowly (Mt 3:4; Mk 1:6).
Figurative: "A land flowing with milk and honey" suggested a land filled with abundance of good things (Ex 3:8,17; Lev 20:24; Nu 13:27; Dt 6:3; Josh 5:6; Jer 11:5; Ezek 20:6,15). "A land of olive trees and honey" had the same meaning (Dt 8:8; 2 Ki 18:32), and similarly "streams of honey and butter" (Job 20:17). Honey was a standard of sweetness (Song 4:11; Ezek 3:3; Rev 10:9,10). It typified sumptuous fare (Song 5:1; Isa 7:15,22; Ezek 16:13,19). The ordinances of Yahweh were "sweeter than honey and the droppings of the honeycomb" (Ps 19:10; 119:103). "Thou didst eat .... honey" (Ezek 16:13) expressed Yahweh's goodness to Jerusalem.
James A. Patch
Also see definition of "Honey
" in Word Study