Sunday, February 1, 2015

The seven species in the land of milk and honey

Welcome back to A Good Bible Study! Are you ready for some spiritual food? I've got something really tasty for you today: it's all about the land of milk and honey.

Today, I watched Revealing Jesus, by Dr. Dan. Stolebarger is one the instructors in my doctoral program. He was discussing Deuteronomy 8:7-10 in which God tells the Israelites all about this wonderful land to which He brought them: the land flowing with milk and honey.

But, to get a really good picture of what's going on in the bible, I've always found it useful to back up and read a few verses previous to get some context. Here, God is reminding the Israelites of just how bad it was. Because, when things are good, we can forget where we came from.

In verse 3, it says, "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and [then] fed you with manna...your garments did not wear out...nor your feet swell these forty years...therefore" [NKJV] and God shares with them the blessings of this new land.

We say we can't appreciate joy without sadness, or the sun without the rain, well, the Israelites could not even begin to appreciate the blessing of the Land, without first learning what it was like to hunger. God hopes his children will appreciate the blessings all the more because He allowed them to experience, deeply, what it is like to go without.
Once in the land, the people were given plenty to eat, and God specifically mentions 7 Species: 2 grains and 5 fruits. In Revealing Jesus, Dr. Dan Stolebarger suggested each species reflects Jesus Messiah (1):
Barley - it is separated by the wind, or the Breath of God. Jesus spoke in the wind to the Israelites. He spoke all of creation into existence with the breath of his nostril. It was used to purchase Gomer, as Jesus' body was used to purchase each of us. Barley loaves fed the multitude, and His body is our Living Bread, feeding our spirits.
Wheat - it must be pressed down to release the grain from the chaff. Jesus was pressed down with the weight of sin on our behalf. It is the bread of life, while Jesus is The Bread of Life.
Grapes - must be completely crushed to release their juices, which run red like blood. Jesus, of course, was crushed and bruised by his captors; his body was pierced and his blood spilled to save us. He is the vine, we are the branches, grafted into His body.
Pomegranate - the 613 seeds (has anyone counted?) may represent the 613 mitzvoth, or commandments of the Torah, the word of God. Jesus, the Word of God, came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.
Olives - Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. He is our light, as olive oil is burned in lamps, He burns in our hearts.
Date Honey - Israel is the "land of milk and honey." Dr. Stolebarger said that the honey in this case is date honey, since bees are non-kosher. Rabbi Menachem Posner, of confirmed this fact in his article, "Why is Israel called the land of milk and honey." (2)

However, elsewhere in scripture, we are advised to eat honeycomb. The words used are:
nopet: honey of the honeycomb. Prov. 5:3; 24:13; 27:7 Song of Solomon 4:11
d'bas: honey, honeycomb plus ya'ra: forest, honeycomb plus ha: the, a, who , this, that i.e., the honey of the forest, (a liquid.) Isa. 14:27 [KJV]
ya'ar: p.n. honeycomb, also refers to forests and woods. Song of Solomon 5:1
and the kicker:
melissios: pertaining to the bee, honecomb. Luke 24:42 [kjv]
Why would the land of milk and honey refer to date honey which must be processed, instead of a food readily available from God? If bees are not kosher, why would Scripture advise us to eat honey? I had to know!

While Israel is the land of milk and date honey, bee honey is also eaten by Kosher Jews according to Rochel Chein, of

"Honey consists of nectar, which bees gather, store and transport to their honeycombs. While in the bee, the nectar is broken down and transformed into honey by enzymes in the bee. But it is not actually digested by the bee. So the honey is not a product of the bee itself--as is milk.
One hundred percent pure, raw honey is kosher." (3)

The last of the 7 species is the fig. I never understood why Jesus cursed that fig tree in Matthew 21. It seemed almost petty, and I know Jesus is not petty. Finally, an explanation!

Dr. Stolebarger taught that a fig tree is representative, among other things, of the followers of Jesus, the Church members. Let me explain.
A fig tree produces fruit before it leaves out. Once it is full of leaves, it should also have borne much fruit. The fig tree in the bible had plenty of leaves, but no fruit. It looked the part, but it was all a sham. There was no productivity, there were no works indicative of the Spirit within. It was a fake, a phony, a liar. It was a religious person with no faith and no fruit.
That's why Jesus cursed it, and it withered and died. It represented what will happen to believers who are all show and no substance. Those who go to church, but have nothing to show for their religiosity. It wasn't the tree, it was that the tree was unproductive and useless. Let's not be the fig tree, but instead be the grafted-in vine.
1. Stolebarger, Dan. Revealing Jesus. Coeur D'Alene, ID: Koinonia House, 2011. DVD
2. Posner, Menachem. Why is Israel called the land of milk and honey?. 2015
3. Chein, Rochel. Why is honey kosher? 2015

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