International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
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 (Deuteronomy 32:13 Judges 14:8, 9 1 Samuel 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 Chronicles 31:5). The bees constructed their honeycomb and deposited their honey in holes in the ground (1 Samuel 14:25); under rocks or in crevices between the rocks (Deuteronomy 32:13 Psalm 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 (Genesis 43:11 1 Kings 14:3). Honey was used in baking sweets (Exodus 16:31). It was forbidden to be offered with the meal offering (Leviticus 2:11), perhaps because it was fermentable, but was presented with the fruit offering (2 Chronicles 31:5). Honey was offered to David's army (2 Samuel 17:29). It was sometimes stored in the fields (Jeremiah 41:8). It was also exchanged as merchandise (Ezekiel 27:17). In New Testament times wild honey was an article of food among the lowly (Matthew 3:4 Mark 1:6).
Figurative: "A land flowing with milk and honey" suggested a land filled with abundance of good things (Exodus 3:8, 17 Leviticus 20:24 Numbers 13:27 Deuteronomy 6:3 Joshua 5:6 Jeremiah 11:5 Ezekiel 20:6, 15). "A land of olive trees and honey" had the same meaning (Deuteronomy 8:8 2 Kings 18:32), and similarly "streams of honey and butter" (Job 20:17). Honey was a standard of sweetness (Songs 4:11 Ezekiel 3:3 Revelation 10:9, 10). It typified sumptuous fare (Songs 5:1 Isaiah 7:15, 22 Ezekiel 16:13, 19). The ordinances of Yahweh were "sweeter than honey and the droppings of the honeycomb" (Psalm 19:10; Psalm 119:103). "Thou didst eat. honey" (Ezekiel 16:13) expressed Yahweh's goodness to Jerusalem.
James A. Patch