BEE (דְּבוֹרָה, H1805, bee all Eng. VSS). Some five families of hymenopterous insects are called bees. All are winged and feed almost entirely on plant nectar and pollen, in return doing much flower fertilization. Most bees are solitary, but the honey bees form a highly organized society. Hebrew Debōrāh prob. covered all true bees and also perhaps other similar insects, as is the common usage of the Eng. bee. Two of the four occurrences clearly refer to the honey bee with its swarming habit “chased you as bees do” (Deut 1:44; Ps 118:12). Some authorities take the bees in Samson’s incident (Judg 14:8) to be honey bees, but Zeuner considers them to be another species (A Hist. of Dom. Animals, ch. 27 [1963]). The fourth passage is fig., “The Lord will whistle....for the bee” (Isa 7:18). A possible reference is to a Palestinean tradition of calling honey bees by whistling. The honey bee was the source of the world’s basic sweetening material until the 18th cent. In backward countries today honey is still collected in quantity from wild bees, but domestication began early in ancient Egypt, and continued throughout Biblical times. Some, perhaps much, of the honey used in Pal. was obtained from bees under some control.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(debhorah; compare Arabic dabr, "a swarm of bees," also Arabic debbur, "a wasp," said to be a corruption of zunbur, "a wasp"; all are apparently from the Hebrew dabhar, "to speak," "arrange," "lead," "follow," or from Arabic dabara, "follow" (compare Arabic dabbara, "arrange"), though the connection in meaning is not apparent): Honey is mentioned many times in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, but the word "bee" occurs only four times, and only one of the four times in connection with honey in the story of Samson (Jud 14:8). Both wild and domesticated bees are found today in Palestine, but it is not clear that bees were kept in Bible times, although it would seem very probable. The frequently recurring phrase, "a land flowing with milk and honey," certainly suggests that the honey as well as the milk is a domestic product. The hives now in use are very primitive and wasteful as compared with hives that are made in Europe and America. Sometimes a large water jar is used. More frequently a cylinder about 3 or 4 ft. long and 6 inches in diameter is constructed of mulberry withes plaited together and plastered with mud or cow dung. A number of these cylinders are placed horizontally, being piled up together under some rude structure which serves as a protection from the direct rays of the sun. In the passage already cited it is related that Samson found a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass of the lion which he had killed on his previous visit. We are not told how much time had intervened, but it does not take long in the dry climate of Palestine for scavenging beasts and insects to strip the flesh from the bones and make the skeleton a possible home for a swarm of bees. The other three passages refer to the offensive power of bees. In De 1:44, in the speech of Moses he says, "The Amorites chased you, as bees do"; in Ps 118:12, the psalmist says, "They compassed me about like bees"; in Isa 7:18, the bee is the type of the chastisement that the Lord will bring from the land of Assyria.

See also

  • Animals