The land of Israel also has a "nickname" which is derived from Exodus 3:8. It is called "The Land of Milk and Honey". We often associate the phrase milk and honey with the things that are familiar to us. We hear the word milk and think of cows. We hear the word honey and think of the sweet bounty of bees. But if you were to travel about Israel in the days when God spoke these words to the people of Israel (Dt. 11:8-9; 26: 9, 15), you would have a hard time finding cow farms and bee keepers. Goats were (and in many cases still are) the primary source of milk in Israel and the word most of our translations call honey was a sweet syrupy liquid made from dates. These two words poetically describe the two general environments in Israel. The Land of Milk describes the way of life in the southern and eastern regions, and the Land of Honey describes the way of life in the north and west.
There are three main characteristics of the Land of Milk: shepherds and herds; wide open space with plenty of room for herds to roam; and desert areas such as the Negev (Gen. 13:1), the Wilderness of Paran (Num. 12:16), and the Wilderness of Zin (Num. 27:12-14). There are three main characteristics of the Land of Honey as well: farmers, less or no space to roam, and mountains with lots of water. Life in the Land of Milk is unpredictable because of its low rainfall and sparse population. It is a silent and lonely place. Life there is demanding and exhausting. It drives home the need for community. Life in the Land of Honey though is quite different. It is very predictable with its cycles of seasons and years. Because there are many villages and cities in this area, it is noisy and congested. Life here is manageable and busy.
When you are reading the Bible stories, it is always a good idea to keep in mind whether it takes place in the Land of Milk or the Land of Honey. Putting these stories within their regional context helps to drive home their meaning. When you read about the Red Sea, wadiis and cisterns (Gen. 37:18-24), Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Moses and Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:1-2), think about the Land of Milk. When you read about The Sea of Galilee (Mt. 4:18), mountains, terrace gardens (Lk. 8:5), the prophets and Jesus, or Mount Zion (1 Ki. 8:1), think of the Land of Honey.
It is still possible to see all the attributes of the Land of Milk and Honey today and if you are blessed to be able to visit the land, these regions still bring the Bible to life. Bedouin still roam with their herds in the Land of Milk. The Negev is thriving, but there is still a vast amount of land that is undeveloped and breath-taking. The Land of Honey is still bustling with lots of people in the cities of Tiberias, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. Israel’s most ancient history is mixed with its recent past everywhere you look. Not only are the Biblical holy days observed there (Lev. 23) but so are significant days such as May 14th which celebrates the day in 1948 when Israel declared that in spite of pogroms, dispersions and the Holocaust, the land of Israel was the natural and historic home of the Jewish people. Therefore God's command to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (as well as the whole land) should not be taken lightly or ignored (Ps. 122:6). Pray for the peace of Israel. Keep in mind our understanding of land and diplomacy are not the way people think in the Middle East. The root of their different perspectives on this issue goes back thousands of years. There is much to be hopeful about as the leaders of these nations meet and work out their plans. Pray for God’s wisdom to be with them as they make these decisions. The people of the land, or common folk, as we might say, truly desire to live in peaceful coexistence. Pray that extremists will not inhibit the prospect of peace but that all hearts will be turned toward the Messiah (Rom. 11:25-27) and waiting for His return.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre