, the common Heb. דְּבַשׁ
, which occurs nearly fifty times in the OT means either “bee’s honey” or “syrup.” The only sweet food stuffs known in antiquity were natural sugars of fructose types produced by fruits, e.g. dates, apricots, grapes, or the honey produced by bees. Both are mentioned in the OT. The foraged honey is mentioned as “honey out of the rock” (Deut 32:13
) and as “honey upon the ground” (1 Sam 14:25
, et al.). Domestic honey from bee hives also is mentioned in the list of “first fruit offerings” (2 Chron 31:5
). In a number of passages the term for “bee” is substituted for “honey” Heb. נֹ֫פֶת
, which, with its cognates, are used interchangeably in context for “honey,” “bee,” and “honey comb” (Prov 5:3
, et al.).
In the NT the standard Gr. μέλι, G3510, occurs four times (Matt 3:4; Mark 1:6; Rev 10:9, 10). It refers exclusively to honey produced by bees. An additional phrase appears in Luke 24:42 only, it is Gr. καὶ ἀπὸμελισσίου κηρίου, “and of an honeycomb” (KJV), but the reading is based upon lesser MSS authorities, viz. the greater number of Byzantine era MSS from Antioch and Caesarea. It is a gloss based upon the well-known availability of honey in the area of Galilee, a product still widely produced in the area.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
James A. Patch