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Lesson on Honey

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I know there are many struggling to lose weight these days and trying to avoid sweets as much as possible. I found this lesson very valuable when I made the decision to stop YO-Yo dieting and live the life God died to give me, a life overflowing with abundance, yet balanced-to bless me with my needs met and have enough to flow forth to others to meet their needs until they to are rooted and grounded in Him as their life source.

The following lesson helped me in finding and maintaining that balance in the area of sweets, I hope it can bless others as well.

 

Israel is often described as the land of milk and honey. Today I would like to discuss honey in the Bible – a few stories in which it is mentioned, as well as honey used as a metaphor for sweetness.

 

Honey

 

First, let us say that while sweet honey is considered good and enjoyable for the consumer, and the Book of Proverbs encourages its consumption, that same book also warns us against eating honey beyond a reasonable measure, as we can see from the comparison of the following verses:

 

Proverbs 24:13:

אֱכָל-בְּנִי דְבַשׁ כִּי-טוֹב

My son, eat honey, for it is good!

Proverbs 25:27

אָכֹל דְּבַשׁ הַרְבּוֹת לֹא-טוֹב

It is not good to eat much honey

 

 

The two fragments of these verses are virtually identical: first a verb from the root אכ"ל – to eat. The son is commanded – in the imperative – אֱכָל! Exol! Eat! The general saying, on the other hand, is in the infinitive absolute – אָכֹל. Axol. To eat. This is a rare form, but it is important to note that the language of the Book of Proverbs is quite peculiar and therefore it is not surprising to find such a form here.

The second or third word, depending on the fragment, is then דְבַשׁ – devash – honey.

The ends of the two verses mean exactly the opposite of each other: כִּי-טוֹב – ki-tov – for it is good – for you, my son (בְּנִי, beni), to eat honey, is the opposite of לֹא-טוֹב – lo tov – it is not good. What is not good? Eating too much honey – הַרְבּוֹת, harbot. This again is a unique form, meaning “much, a lot”.

 

 

Bear

 

Honey here presents us perhaps with one of the most fundamental dilemmas of education: how do we teach a child (as we see in Proverbs 24:13, it is a son who is being taught) that something is good only when used with the right measure? Honey is sweet and recommended, but beware! Too much of it is not good. Learning the balance between these things is part of growing up and understanding. Until then, the parent must fill both roles: recommend eating the sweet honey while warning against excess consumption of it. Honey of course, can be understood here either literally, or as a metaphor for virtually anything which is good in small amounts and harmful when used in an excessive manner. A few verses before warning against excessive eating, the Book of Proverbs gives us a rather graphic description of the bad results it may bring, trying to teach the listener what the happy medium is:

דְּבַשׁ מָצָאתָ אֱכֹל דַּיֶּךָּ פֶּן-תִּשְׂבָּעֶנּוּ וַהֲקֵאתוֹ

Have you found honey? Eat that which is sufficient for you, so that you will not be filled with it and vomit it. (Proverbs 25:16)

 

 

milk and honey cake

 

 

 

An interesting story about honey is told in 1 Samuel 14. During a war with the Philistines, Saul made a vow to all the people, cursing anyone who ate before sun down, as a promise of victory. Jonathan, who had gone ahead with his armor-bearer and defeated many of the Philistines, did not hear this. The people then arrived in a forest covered with honey, but none of them ate, because of the oath. The exhausted Jonathan, who had not heard the oath, dipped the tip of his rod in the honeycomb and tasted it, and his eyes lighted up thanks to it. When Jonathan heard of his father’s command, he criticized it, saying that the people would have fought better and been happier had they eaten. When Saul heard of what had happened, he ordered that Jonathan be killed; only the pleading of the people, reminding him of Jonathan’s great contribution to the war effort, saved Jonathan from this fate.

 

Honey

 

 

This story gives us two examples of Saul’s problematic leadership: first, the command that the fighters not eat, which as Jonathan says is unreasonable, and second, the death verdict he so easily decrees for his own son, who didn't even know that he was breaking the oath when he did so, because he had not heard it! It is reasons such as these which prove to the readers of the Book of Samuel, why Saul was not a worthy king.

 

Scroll

 

In the Book of Ezekiel, we hear of an interesting initiation that this prophet goes through. At the beginning of the third chapter of the book, before being sent to talk to the people, he is commanded to eat a scroll which contains what he is supposed to say to the people. This is proof of the deep literacy of this prophet: everything is delivered through the written word, including the actual prophecy. Ezekiel’s prophecies are harsh, but despite this, when he eats the scroll, it is:

וַתְּהִי בְּפִי כִּדְבַשׁ לְמָתוֹק

“and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness” (Ezekiel 3:3)

 

This description, and the idea that the Torah is as sweet as honey, led to an interesting custom throughout history: when young children would come to start learning how to read the Torah, the teachers would put honey on the letters, and the children would lick them – so that the letters of the Torah would seem to them like honey, like in Ezekiel’s description.

 

Have a great (and sweet) week!

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