Monday, February 9, 2009

Eating Butter and Honey

Here is an interesting cultural perspective on a familiar verse of scripture.

Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. Isaiah 7:15

We can better understand the cultural context of this passage when we consider that Near Eastern authors often use “butter and honey” symbolically to represent peace, harmony, meekness, and prosperity. For example, biblical writers called Palestine “the land of milk [butter] and honey.” This means that Palestine was to be a land of peace and prosperity.

In the old days, the milk that wealthy Easterners drank came primarily from sheep. They also used butter made from the milk of sheep. They very seldom used cow’s milk for drinking or for butter. The poor were the ones who used cow’s milk and by-products.

Sheep are gentle animals and trustingly allow shepherds to guide and feed them. They never resist their enemy, nor do they protest when the shepherd takes them to the slaughter. Sheep-raising people are famous for their hospitality, sincerity, and reverence for God.

In the Bible, we read of many great prophets who had been engaged in raising sheep when God called them to become prophets. For these reasons, in Near Eastern culture, sheep symbolized meekness. Easterners came to associate drinking milk from sheep with being meek and gentle.

Another association common with Semites relates to the way nature makes honey. To produce honey, bees gather nectar from flowers, and since the various colors of flowers were symbolic for Easterners, honey came to represent harmony and prosperity. (The various colors of flowers to Easterners meant peace, wisdom, harmony, and prosperity.)

Now we can fully grasp the idea of the saying of Isaiah: “Butter and honey shall he eat that he may know to refuse evil, and choose good.” It also suggests that when spiritual understanding reigns in the hearts of humanity, humankind will eat “butter and honey.” Humanity will live in peace and prosperity. Nations will become harmless, and instruments of war will be no more.

(Errico, Rocco A. Let There Be Light, Noohra Foundation, Santa Fe, New Mexico: 1994, pgs 213-214)


  1. Donna: Thank you for this wonderful information. It is so helpful,

  2. Very cool. It'll be wonderful when this is the case in the Middle East...and all over the world.