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Honey in the Land of the Bible

June 1, 2005
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Sugar of any kind, cane syrup, or artificial sweeteners were not known at in Bible times, so if it was sweetness you craved, it came from the natural sweetness of fruit or honey, which was the main sweetener. Honey, in the Bible, referred to the bee honey we all know and love today, as well as fruit jam or syrup from dates, apricots, or grapes. 

Although apiculture (the keeping of bees, especially on a large scale) was known in Egypt and Mesopotamia, it is not mentioned in the Bible. All the evidence indicates that honey came from a natural source. Wild bees produced honey on the ground (1 Sam. 14:25–27), in rock crevices (Deut. 32:13), and even in the carcasses of animals (Judg. 14:8). Domestic honey from beehives is also mentioned in the list of firstfruits offered in 2 Chronicles 31:5. In a number of passages, the term for “bee” is substituted for “honey,” e.g., Proverbs 5:3.

In the Newer Testament, honey is mentioned four times (Matt. 3:4; Mark 1:6; Rev. 10:9–10) and refers to bee honey.

Today in Israel, honey is widely produced, as is the case in most Mediterranean countries. The hives are placed near groves of trees that produce flavored honeys, e.g. citrus and avocado. For me, the best-tasting honey is avocado honey, which is produced by bees collecting nectar from avocado flowers.

There are in Israel today 480 beekeepers, who maintain 85,000 plus beehives. The average production of honey per beehive per year is 141 pounds (64 kilograms); total production is almost 12 million pounds (5,440,000 kilograms).

To find out more about beekeeping and honey production in Israel, please contact: The Israeli Beekeepers Association, P.O. Box 57302, 56 Hamasger Street, Tel Aviv 61572, Israel; Tel: 972-3-562-1515; FAX: 972-3-562-3636.

Nougat Ice Cream

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg white
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup chilled whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shelled and unsalted pistachios, chopped

Stir 1/2 cup honey, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil, without stirring, 1 minute.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat the egg white with a pinch of salt in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually, pour the hot syrup over the egg-white mixture, beating constantly. Continue beating the meringue until it is very stiff, about 4 minutes. Let stand until cool, about 10 minutes.

Beat the cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Fold into the honey meringue. Fold in chopped nuts. Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7 x 2–inch glass baking dish. Cover and freeze until firm, about 4 hours (can be prepared 1 week ahead, keep frozen). Spoon ice cream into bowls and serve. Yields 8 servings.


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