At least 10 times in the Old Testament, from Exodus to Deuteronomy, you will find reference to a land where milk and honey flows freely. As far as the people of that time were considered, these words described the most exquisite of all things; the best of the best, creme de la creme, the top dog, and the cat’s meow. Apparently it just didn’t get any better than that.
But think about it; what is so wonderful about milk and honey? Why not a land of wine and figs? Plentiful fish harvests and abundant salt? Fruited plains with amber grain?
It occurred to me that there is something that both milk and honey have in common that is very unique; they are both food stuffs that are secreted (yecch!) by other animals. Most of the food that we get from animals are the animals themselves; we eat all or part of them. But milk is a warm viscous fluid that comes out of a living mammal and honey is…a paste?…an ooze?…that comes out of an insect. Again and again. Think about it.
There is also a way in which these two food are very, very different; Milk, If not used promptly, will begin to spoil. If this spoilage is controlled properly we might make us some cheese but usually the milk ends up becoming disgustingly inedible. It is an excellent medium for bacterial and fungal growth.
Honey, on the other hand, will last almost indefinitely ( I just ate some that had been hiding in the back of our cupboard for at least 10 years – very tasty ). It naturally inhibits bacteria and fungus from taking root.
Scripture has a way of hitting upon those foods that are very unique and in some way ‘cooperative’ foods. When we drink milk or eat honey we don’t kill the cow or the bee. The harvesting of these living foods is part of a relationship that exists between the animal and the human harvester. It would be of no benefit to eat the cow that gives the milk or to destroy the hive that provides the honey. But some foolish or ignorant people might do just that, out of greed or fear.
There is something oddly harmonious and peaceful about the harvesting and eating of milk and honey. Neither bee nor cow (or sheep or goat) must be sacrificed in order to to provide for our needs. I can’t think of anything else where this is the case.