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Why is Israel called the land of "Milk and Honey"?

Why is Israel called the land of "Milk and Honey"?

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Some of our greatest sages asked the same question; let's see what they have to say:

When G‑d spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He informed him that He would redeem the Israelites and bring them to a "good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey..."1 Honey here (and elsewhere in the Scriptures) is generally understood to be a reference to fruit nectar, specifically date honey—not bees' honey.

1) Nachmanides2 writes that the key word in the verse is "flowing." Fruit trees grow in many different terrains, but their produce overflow with nectar only when the land is especially fertile, when the trees are particularly well-nourished.

Similarly, livestock survives in many habitats, but only overflow with milk when they are in particularly fertile pastures.

Thus, a "land flowing with milk and honey" is indicative and symptomatic of a greater good—the fertility of the Promised Land.

2) The Midrash3 explains that milk symbolizes superior quality, richness of taste, and nourishment. Honey represents sweetness. The goodness of Israel is both nourishing and pleasant.

3) Some point out that honey and milk share a paradoxical quality. Honey is kosher, though it is produced by a non-kosher insect. Milk is kosher, though it comes from a cow whose meat may not be eaten together with milk.

The goodness of Israel will often times come from places where it is least expected.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

Footnotes
2.

Ibid.

3.

Yalkut Shimoni Proverbs 8:943.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Esther pater The Netherlands December 22, 2016

It's not a comment but a question. First: The Land flowing with Milk and Honey in the Bible. do they refer to Ethiopia or Israel.
Second: Someone said to me that the now Israel is not the Israel of the Bible. Is that true? Reply

Neil Townsend Wantage May 22, 2016

Thank you. Reply

Wayne Nelson Packwood WA. March 23, 2016

If the physical reflects the spiritual could the land of milk and honey represent the Torah. I have heard when a youth first begins study they take a drop of honey and put it on the page and have them lick the honey off the page representing the sweetness of Torah. Milk and honey are a type of food and Torah study is food for the soul. 2. They are both a result of a fertile land.3 They flow. Torah study and performing Mitzvahs result in fertile life one flowing with blessing. Flowing can be seen by the way the word of Torah has spread out from the Holy Land unto the nations. Even in exile the sweetness went with Jewish people. Mamonides,Nachmanides,The Baal Shem Tov and many of the other Sages did some of HaShems greatest work while in exile. Also the Babylonian Talmud was written. The milk and honey just keeps flowing now as the jews are returning, the land is beginning to give its increase to the its people and to the nations. wayne Reply

Anonymous Buckeye, AZ January 18, 2016

When the twelve spies went out from the wilderness they brought back samples of beautiful fruit. The size was larger than they had ever ever seen. Was the land more fertile 3500 years ago? Based upon scripture, it seems like it was more than just a figurative "milk and honey". Is there any evidence of a better irrigation system 3500-4000 years ago? Reply

Anonymous Singapore January 10, 2016

If you have been to Israel which I just did 2 weeks ago, you would understand that it is a favoured fertile land. Yes, it has vast deserts, but at the same time it is fertile. And FYI Israel need not to take in goods from other countries. They have it all from meat to veggies and what not all on their own. For so long I have been traveling, it's the first time I witness such a place as blessed as Israel considering the physical characteristic of the country. When God said so, it shall be so. Reply

Alex Toronto April 23, 2014

It is covered by deserts and uncultivated soil for the most part of it!
If G-d knew about Canada at that time, He\she\it could call Canada the land of honey and milk and above all water. Reply

Rahs Omarr January 25, 2014

I heard the same opinion Dvir, from a very prominent preacher but had to dismiss it based on the context of the passage of scripture. In my own study of scripture God references the land as a "good land". He even had to drive the inhabitants out of the land, which implies that they were willing to fight for the land. More than likely, this would not be the case if the opinion were true about the land being a desert land or unhealthy. So based on my own biblical and historical research I have concluded that the land was in fact a good and fertile land. Reply

Anonymous Neosho, MO November 18, 2013

I've often thought of milk and honey as two forms of sustenance that can be consumed by man without destroying a life or potential life. I may be blind, but I've not been able to come up with anything else that meets that criteria. Any thoughts? Reply

Gem Australia September 15, 2013

I think that it makes more sense if referring to bee's honey. When is there an abundance of milk in the land but when there are many animals reproducing? Likewise, when there are bees in the land producing honey, the land is fertile. The bees do their job of pollinating and thus many different vegetables and fruits thrive (including date palms). Reply

Milton Negron Sr. Hartford, Ct August 31, 2013

When Hitler tried to exterminate the Jewish people he was not acting alone. Satan was behind that. The whole world is being blessed through the Jewish nation. Israel is still the land that flows milk and honey. In 1948 it was a dry land and they had to get their food from other countries. Now in 2013 they are self sufficient in food due to their hard work. Physical and mentally. These other Arab countries wait until the oil come to the surface and sell it. Just like in the time of Isaac that he used to dig the wells for water and the wicked wanted the well after it was dug. The promise is still in place. Any country or leader that attacks or curse Israel will be defeated. God will punish them just like he did in past. Reply

C. Edgar Schnarr Ny July 30, 2013

I don't understand how flowing which seems manageable can be confused with overflowing which does not seem to be so manageable. Reply

Anonymous February 11, 2013

That's delusional and incredibly creepy... Reply

Anonymous February 6, 2013

I will start off by stating that I am a christian. I am curious about why you say... G-d. If you are trying to be reverent or something then why not just call Him the Lord? Or the Heavenly Father or something? I always thought not saying His name in vain really only applied to his personal name, though it would be disrespectful to use His title (that is to say G-d) in conjunction with a curse word. Feel free to email me with an answer. Reply

Dan February 2, 2013

When you consider that virtually half of all of Israel (southern half) is arid desert land not suitable to sustain life in terms which, we would describe as rich in natural resources, you wonder where and how the moniker "land flowing with milk and honey" applies.

Today, Israel is the envy of all the nations that surround it for the promise it inherited from God Himself. It is indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. Israel has just in recent history been identified to have the largest sources for both natural gas and shale oil. Is it any wonder then, that nations such as Russia, an avowed ally to Israel's enemies, are now courting Israel for commercial benefits?

Israel does not need a foreign body to protect it...God loves Israel and it is the apple of His eye.

As history continues to unfold, we shall all see the veracity of Scripture when God described its land as "a land flowing with milk and honey" ! Reply

Gary December 30, 2012

I think I was told that all foods regenerate itself ,milk and honey, the beginning and the end, a to z, alfa and omega...G-d... Reply

Mr. Eliezer Chaim Dvir Vancouver, Canada October 13, 2012

I have found one opinion that states that these were the most common food items because that was all that would live in a near-desert area, the cattle being unhealthy and their calves dying because of the paucity of normative foodstuffs for these beasts, and the cows being unab to rid themselves of their milk, it being harshly released on to the ground, basically, as the calves were not there to imbibe the fluid. I don't know how much fact this opinion contains, and I truly wish that I could remember just exactly who it was that stated it. I just don't know, but somehow this opinion just does not make any real sense. (I used to drive the "mitzva tank" in 1981 in the Natzeret Illit area to all over the northern part of the country. (I was then called Eliezer Euper, but changed my family name because a number of rabbis suggested that "not exactly a good Jewish name" and that I take the name "Dvir" in its place (Rabbi David Shisgal,l who lived in Kiryat Arba, where my family lived.) Reply

Sheila Kennebrew Birmingham , Al September 11, 2012

Interestingly profound. The return of the chosen ones...Israel would provoke God's blessings! Milk is for nourishment and honey represents his goodness. Flowing to no end. Basically...prospering in the land destined for the chosen ones!!! Awesome analogy!! Reply

Menachem Posner, author August 5, 2008

While the primary understanding of the verse it that it refers to date honey, the authors of answer 3 understand that it is also symbolic of bees’ honey as well. Reply

Sue August 4, 2008

You write that the honey in this verse is not bees' honey. How does that fit with #3, where you write that honey comes from an insect? Reply

Roxanne (goy) January 10, 2008

Wonderful answer. Very interesting..... Reply