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Meaning of 'Land Flowing with Milk and Honey'

Updated on April 26, 2018
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Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She posts many articles online that are really Bible lessons.

Canaan is the land flowing with milk and honey.
Canaan is the land flowing with milk and honey.

He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. (Deuteronomy 26:9)

On many occasions in the Bible, we read about a land flowing with milk and honey. God promised the Israelites that's what He would give them. He gave them that. Then He reminded them over and over again that He had given them a land flowing with milk and honey. In other words, there was a promise, an action, and a reminder.

Most people don't focus on every word in Deuteronomy 26:9 and other scriptures about a land flowing with milk and honey. They skip right to the milk and honey part and miss the other important words that precede the two substances. The words should be examined in this order:

  • land
  • flowing
  • milk
  • honey

Let's explore the promise, the action, and the reminder and see how it applies to us today.

God's Promise, Action, and Reminder

The Promise

God said, “I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:17)

God warned His people about keeping His commands. He said, “Be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Deuteronomy 6:3)

The Action

God's action was evident when the Israelites reached the promised land. They were able to plant their own gardens in the rich and fertile soil. They became self-sufficient after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years where they couldn't grow their own crops.

The Reminder

When God spoke about Israel’s rescue, He said He had brought them “out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8)

The phrase "flowing with milk and honey" is understood to be an over-exaggerated description of the land's richness and abundance.

While milk and honey can be for the most basic survival needs, they are specials gifts from God. Together, these two items, are signs of abundance and prosperity that awaited God's chosen people in the promised land.

It is nice to know that nothing had to die in order to obtain those two products. A cow or goat can produce milk without dying. Nothing has to die in order to get honey.

The land flowing with milk and honey is also referred to as the Promised Land.
The land flowing with milk and honey is also referred to as the Promised Land.

Land

The promise of land in the Bible was very important. The Hebrews had been in slavery in Egypt for over 400 years tending a land that was not theirs. They had to build houses out of bricks and straw. Pharaoh allowed them to plant crops on his land so they could have food to eat. However, they did not own the land.

When Moses showed up to deliver them out of slavery, God promised them they would eventually have things of their own. The first thing He promised them was land. Why was that so important?

Land was important because it gave the Israelites stability and security. A land flowing with milk and honey is a metaphor for the good life.

From the time the Israelites left Egypt, several times God spoke a specific, abundant and beautiful blessing on them. He promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. The promised land was Canaan located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. That land would be the Israelites' heritage (Exodus 3:8; Numbers 14:8; Deuteronomy 31:20; Ezekiel 20:15).

The land is described as "a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey." God’s description is a graphic way of describing the richness of the fertile land that was “spacious, good, pleasant, beautiful, and fruitful.”

Map of the Promised Land
Map of the Promised Land

Flowing

The key word in God's promise is "flowing." Cattle give an abundance of milk when they are in fertile pastures. Fruit trees not only grow but overflow with nectar only when the land is especially fertile.

The original Hebrew word for "flowing" comes from the verb "zoov" which means to gush. In other words, it suggests the land would be gushing with milk and honey because it would be so plentiful. God promised a good life ahead when he promised His people a "land flowing with milk and honey."

Milk and Honey
Milk and Honey

Milk

A land overflowing with milk is a metaphor for a rich and abundant life. From the time babies are born, they are fed milk from its mother. This includes animals who produce milk and give it to their newborns.

God promised His chosen people milk that would sustain them. The milk would be plentiful to the point that it would gush out from the land and overflow.

Honey

When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He informed him that He would redeem the Israelites and bring them to a "good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey."

Honey is generally understood to be a reference to fruit nectar, specifically date honey and not honey from bees. Honey in the Bible was a symbol of good health as it was for Samuel.

Honey is an honored gift from God. Proverbs 24:13 says, "My son, eat honey because it is good, And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste." John the Baptist survived by eating locust and wild honey, according to Matthew 3:1-4.

Honey is mentioned in the Book of Revelation. "So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, 'Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.' I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour." (Revelation 10:7-11)

Milk as the Word of God

Milk is used some places in the Bible as the Word of God. According to Hebrews 5:12-13, "You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness since he is a child.” The writer is emphasizing that some people are still being babes and not ready for the solid food of the Word.

Paul rebuked the Corinthians when he wrote, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13)

Peter uses the word milk in a positive way when he wrote, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3).

Honey as the Word of God

The Bible compares the Word of God to honey. The psalmist writes, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103)

Ezekiel was once told by God, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.” (Ezekiel 3:3)

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    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      8 months ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, Carib Tales, for reading and commenting on my article. I am glad it helped people understand the meaning of "Land Flowing with Milk and Honey."

    • CaribTales profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      8 months ago from The Caribbean

      Great study! You help us understand what we mean when we use this phrase.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      8 months ago from Richmond, VA

      I am glad you like my article. Thanks for reading and responding. I am posting a lot of my Bible teachings over the years.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      8 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you for an informative artilce. A land flowing with milk and honey always signified abundance to me, but your explanations deepens the meaning of the Scriptures for me. Thank you, Reverend.

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