By : Morris Jastrow Jr. Immanuel
A honey-gathering insect frequently
referred to in the Bible. Bee-keeping
dates very far back, and it is
quite probable that the ancient
Hebrews were engaged in it, although
there is no direct testimony on
the subject either in the Old
or in the New Testament. Isaiah
vii. 18 is usually quoted in evidence,
and the phrase "the Lord
shall hiss . . . for the bee"
is explained as a technical term
of apiculture, meaning to entice
the bees to the hive; but the
correctness of this supposition
may be questioned. It would be
more justifiable to quote II Chron.
xxxi. 5, where reference is made
to the first-fruits of honey.
Philo is the first to mention
beekeeping, and the Talmud often
refers to it. Whatever age, therefore,
is to be assigned to apicultureamong
the Hebrews, in any case wild
bees abounded in Palestine; the
phrase "the land flowing
with milk and honey" (Ex.
iii. 8) vouches for this fact.
In Gen. xliii. 11, and also in
Ezek. xxvii. 17, honey is named
as an article of export; and in
other passages of the Old Testament
the abundance of wild honey is
often spoken of (Deut. xxxii.
13; Judges xiv. 8; I Sam. xiv.
25 et seq.; Ps. lxxxi. 17 [A.
V. 16]; Prov. xxv. 16; Matt. iii.
4). In Hebrew cookery, honey plays
an important part (see Honey).
The Bee is also often mentioned;
and a swarm of wild bees is compared
to a hostile army (Deut. i. 44;
Isa. vii. 18 et seq.; Ps. cxviii.
2). The small, unpretentious work
of the Bee, that yet gives such
sweet produce, is praised in Ecclus.
(Sirach) xi. 3; compare the sentence
added in the Septuagint to Prov.
vi. 8, where much the same is
said of the Bee as the Hebrew
text says of the ant. From the
word "Bee" is derived
the popular name "Deborah"
(Bee). To-day apiculture is carried
on to a considerable extent in
Palestine, and not only is Palestinian
honey exported in large quantities
to Europe and America, but even
the bees of Palestine are sent
to other countries. The beehives
consist of hollow cylinders, made
of earth mixed with chopped straw,
about 39 inches long and ten inches
wide. The beehives in ancient
times could hardly have been more
Tristram, Natural History of the
Bible, pp. 322-326