Often mentioned in the Old Testament as a choice article of food. It was eaten alone (Judges xiv. 9; I Sam. xiv. 27, et al.), as well as with other foods. In pastry it took the place of sugar (Ex. xvi. 31). It was, with milk, the food of children (Isa. vii. 15). Canaan is frequently praised as a land "flowing with milk and honey" (Ex. iii. 8, et al.; Jer. xi. 5; Ezek. xx. 6). Palestine abounded and still abounds in wild bees, but it is to be assumed that bees were domesticated in Palestine in Biblical times. In a few passages (e.g., Gen. xliii. 11; Ezek. xxvii. 17) "debash" may denote artificial honey, or sirup, prepared from the juice of various fruits, which to the present day forms, under the name of "dibs," an important article of export in Syria and Palestine (comp. Bliss, "A Mound of Many Cities," pp. 69-71, who describes an apparatus for boiling down fruit into a sirup, found at Tell al-Ḥasi, the ancient Lachish). Though the first-fruits of honey were brought to the sanctuary (II Chron. xxxi. 5), it was excluded from sacrifices on account of its fermenting properties (Lev. ii. 11; comp. Pliny, "Historia Naturalis," xi. 15). "Because coming from an unclean animal" is the reason given by Philo, ed. Mangey, ii. 255, for its exclusion. On account of its sweetness, honey is used as a figure for gracious and pleasant things (for the words of God, Ps. xix. 11 [A. V. 10], cxix. 103; for wisdom, Prov. xxiv. 13, xxv. 16; for the speech of a friend, Prov. xvi. 24; Cant. iv. 11).
The Talmud dilates on the preciousness of honey. It is one-sixtieth as sweet as manna (Ber. 57b), and to infants manna had the taste of honey (Yoma 75b); it lighteth up the eye of man (ib. 83b; comp. I Sam. xiv. 27). A drink composed of honey, wine, and oil is mentioned under the name of "nomelim" or "onomelin" (οἰνόμελι; Ter. xi. 1; Shab. 139b). Honey by itself was considered a beverage (Maksh. v. 9; comp. Ḳid. 48b). In taking out the combs ("ḥallot"; comp. the Biblical "ya'arah," I Sam. xiv. 27; Cant. v. 1) from the hive ("kawweret"), which was made of straw or wickerwork, the bees were first stupefied by smoke; at least two combs were left in the hive as food for the bees during the winter (B. B. 80a; Kelim xvi. 7). Adulteration of honey by admixture of water or flour is referred to (Soṭah 48b; Maksh. v. 9). Honey was produced from dates (Ter. xi. 2; comp. Josephus, "B. J." v. 8). For the medicinal use of honey see Ber. 44b; Shab. 76b, 154b; B. M. 38a. The employment of honey in embalming is mentioned by Josephus ("Ant." xiv. 7, § 4; comp. Pliny, l.c. xv. 18; B. B. 3b). See Bee.
- Robinson, Researches, ii. 717;
- Bochart, Hierozoicon, iii. 365;
- L. Lewysohn, Zoologie des Talmuds, p. 302.