Serving as symbols and metaphors rich in significance, references to bees in the bible provide valuable life lessons. The Holy Bible offers many insights into the significance of bees in relation to our spiritual journey. These are expressed in numerous bible verses about bees and stories or parables.
Early people understood the importance of honey bees and were knowledgeable about their life and basic bee facts. It is little wonder that they have been noted in literature throughout time.
Religious Symbolism of Bees in the Bible
From the Old Testament to the New Testament, references to bees offer insights into themes of abundance, industry, wisdom, and unity. A swarm of bees, swarming is natural in honey bees, is considered a divine occurrence.
Consider the importance of the printed word during early civilization. Writing was an expensive endeavor and reserved for the most important work. This makes it even more astounding to realize that bees were valued as a meaningful topic.
But, for those of us who are beekeepers, we can easily understand why the honey bee has held a meaningful place in religious text.
Once you have experienced working with bees, you see the marvels inside a beehive. A profound connection to faith and the surrounding world becomes readily comprehensible, regardless of your religious affiliations.
Bees in the Old Testament
In the text of the Old Testament, bees are mentioned in several different contexts. This frequency shows the value of their symbolism and cultural significance during biblical times.
Land of Milk and Honey
One noticeable affiliation with bees is the reference to “a land flowing with milk and honey.” This phrase is repeated many times in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy.
The land of Canaan, was promised to the Israelites as a place of bountiful blessings and rewards. It was described as a place flowing with milk and honey.
This Promised Land was to be a place of abundance and prosperity for the people. In the bible, bees making honey is considered a symbol of the fertility of the land. This shows how God is providing for His people.
Also, honey played a major role in the diet and religious practices of the Israelites. It was a valuable commodity that was not available in large supply.
In addition to being used as a sweetener, honey was used in important religious ceremonies. The book of Leviticus gives detailed instructions for the proper way to present honey to the Lord as an offering.
Bees Symbolize Industry
If you read the book of Proverbs, you will find may references to bees as being hard-working and wise. But, they are not the only industrious insects mentioned.
Proverbs 6:6-8 states, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”
The author is conveying this important lesson to encourage individuals to work like the ant. They should provide for themselves without being told to do so.
Likewise, honey bees exemplify the virtues of hard work, planning, and organization. They emphasize the importance of diligence and wise stewardship of resources. Nothing is wasted in the hive.
Story of Samson
Another story in the bible about bees is associated with Samson. He was known for his incredible strength. Samson encounters and kills a lion and and later discovers a hive of bees and honey inside its carcass.
He proposes a wager with a riddle to some Philistine wedding guests. The riddle was: “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?”
This story represents a symbol of triumph and reward resulting from overcoming a formidable adversary. It signifies the sweet victory and unexpected blessings that can come from facing and conquering challenges.
Bees in the New Testament
The New Testament of the Bible references bees fewer times than the old. But they still offer some intriguing insights and lessons.
John the Baptist’s life and ministry in the New Testament prominently featured a notable association with bees
John was a preacher who followed a very plain lifestyle. He preached and baptized in the wilderness. A part of his diet was wild honey (Matthew 3:4). This symbolizes his commitment to purity and simplicity.
Anyone who has eaten pure beeswax with honey straight from the hive can recognize the wonder of this creation. Not only does it taste good but it is actually quite nourishing.
Some of Jesus’ parables in the bible indirectly refer to bees. In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9), Jesus compares the spread of God’s Word to the scattering of seed.
The seed thrives or dies depending on the soil that receives it. This parable does not mention bees directly.
However, it suggests the importance of cultivating an environment free from distractions and worldly influences.
Perhaps one of the most significant examples of bee symbolism in the New Testament occurs in the book of Revelation. John is given a vision of a scroll that tastes sweet as honey in his mouth (Revelation 10:9-10).
This represents the divine revelation and message that John receives from God. The sweetness of the honey symbolizes the joy, fulfillment, and richness that comes from embracing and sharing God’s Word.
Community and Unity
The sense of community in the beehive is a thing of wonder. All of the bees in the hive work together for the greater good of their colony.
The stories of bees in the bible showcase their ability to work selflessly. They are willing to sacrifice personal wants for the benefit of the community.
However, they do not reproduce or have young. Instead, their lives are spent serving as nurse bees to young produced by the queen.
This shows their complete dedication to the hive. In fact, it is evident in other behaviors, such as the foragers tirelessly collecting nectar, pollen, and other resources needed by the colony.
Bees Give Lessons in Humility
In the context of humility, bees teach us the importance of recognizing our place within a larger community.
They work together harmoniously, each bee fulfilling a specific role and contributing to the overall functioning of the hive.
There is no place for arrogance or self-centeredness in the life of a bee. Their actions reflect a deep understanding of their interdependence and the humility to serve the greater good.
When we reflect on the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, we find a clear emphasis on humility and service.
Jesus, who washed the feet of his disciples, exemplified the heart of a servant. He encouraged his followers to serve one another, putting others’ needs before their own.
The imagery of bees as humble and diligent creatures aligns with the biblical teachings of Jesus, reminding us of the transformative power of selfless service.
Bible Verses About Bees
There are numerous bible verses about bees in the Holy Bible. Here are some of the most common examples.
Judges 14:8 – “And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion.”
Deuteronomy 1:44 – “And the Amorites, which dwelt in that mountain, came out against you, and chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah.”
Isaiah 7:18 – “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.”
Psalm 118:12 – “They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.”
Biblical References to Honey
Most of the references to honey found in the Bible are located in the Old Testament. But, you will also find some mentions of honey or honeycomb in the New Testament too.
Genesis 43:11 – “And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds.”
Exodus 3:8 – “And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.”
Deuteronomy 8:8 – “A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil and honey;”
Proverbs 16:24 – “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”
Psalm 119:103 – “How sweet are thy words unto my taste yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
1 Samuel 14:25-27 – “And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground. And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.”
Matthew 3:4 – “And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.”
Proverbs 25:27 – “It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.”
1 Samuel 14:43 – “Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” So Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the end of the staff that was in my hand. Here I am, I must die!”
Psalm 19:10 – “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
Song of Solomon 4:11 – “Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.”
Ezekiel 3:3 – “And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.”
Beeswax was considered to be a holy substance. Monks in the monasteries made their own beeswax candles for use during religious services.
Bees appear in many historical works of art and writings. In fact, bees were considered gods by some ancient civilizations. But it was the early Christians who left the most numerous references.
As we observe the humble and industrious nature of bees as depicted in the bible, we are prompted to examine our own attitudes and actions.
Like bees, perhaps we should focus more on recognizing our skills, talents, and resources as gifts. These should be used for the betterment of others.
This entails setting aside ego and pride and seeking opportunities to serve those around us with love and compassion. Considering the popularity of cute bee quotes and sayings, maybe we do have a yearning to become a bit more like the honey bee.