Bees and honey are mentioned quite often in the Bible. This can only mean that bees, in particular, play a significant role in both Christianity and Judaism. They symbolize a lot of positive attributes that we can identify through a variety of scriptures. In this article, you will learn the specific definitions of the two religions as well as be able to differentiate them, understand the symbolism behind the bee, read the scriptures that involve bees, and other bee facts in terms of religion and spirituality.
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Bee references have been around for centuries. They have been part of various scriptures in the bible. They have been consistently used to describe various positive characteristics such as wisdom, wealth, and industry. Equally, honey has its own limelight in many religious texts.
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General Symbolism of the Bee
In various religions and cultures, bees have been used to represent positivity in a variety of forms: wisdom, immortality, fidelity, industry, and virginity. They have played a vital role throughout the centuries and continue to help mankind.
The characteristics that describe bees fall upon various belief systems. In some cultures, they are considered to be messengers that bring news from the spirit world, which is a quite interesting point-of-view. And as mentioned there are a variety of characteristics these insects symbolize. Let us break each of these down:
According to the bible, it is quite common for Christians of the ancient times to compare their communities to a beehive. Especially with monks and their monasteries. It is said that bees have all the virtues a true Christian must have, and this includes wisdom. In the Book of Judges, prophet Deborah, known as the mother of Israel has been known for her wisdom as a judge.
Bees attract prosperity and good luck. It is said that having charms in the shape of a honeybee is especially effective for influencing wealth, which is why some would have coins with a honeybee in gold. Having these trinkets are said to be lucky for business.
We all know for a fact that one of the most industrious species on the plant would be the bees. They work in an organized fashion and are quite productive. With their hard work, they are able to pollinate thousands of crops, make honey, create beeswax, and royal jelly – all by simply doing their jobs in the hive which is to care for the queen and feed her offspring. The term “busy bee” has often been used to describe industrious people working hard towards a particular goal.
The symbolism of this simple creature is quite vast, depending on the culture and religion you are reading into, these may vary. What we can be sure of is that bees are mainly positive, and will bring good fortune and success to your home.
Symbolism of Bees in Christianity and Judaism
Being mentioned in the Bible quite often, as we have stated, bees have quite the significance in both religions.
In Judaism, in their celebration of Rosh Hashana, it is part of their rituals and customs to eat symbolic food which included dipping bread or fruits into honey. This symbolizes the hopes of a happy and prosperous new year.
In Christianity, on the other hand, the bees have been likened to the attributes and characteristics of Jesus Christ himself. Their industriousness, strength, and wisdom are collectively seen in Him.
The Story of Deborah
The name Deborah was derived from the Hebrew name Devorah, which literally translates to “bee”. In the old testament specifically on the book of Judges, Deborah is a prophetess and the only female judge of Israel. She lead the Israelites to safety when they were threatened by the Canaanites.
She served as God’s messenger, she informed Barak that God had commanded him to lead an attack against King Jabin and his military. At the end of the chapter, the story is summarized in a poetic form called The Song of Deborah.
Bible Passages On Bees
There are various citations of bees in the bible, but here are a few of the popular ones.
“After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion and honey.”
This passage is on the story of Samson which includes the swarm of bees and honey. It is said that Samson wagered a riddle to about thirty Philistine guests, with his experience after killing a young lion. The riddle goes: “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” He offered to give 30 soft undershirts and good suits to whoever gets the correct answer. The Philistines could not solve the riddle. They resorted to extorting Samson’s wife.
The Jews did not give particular attention to the riddle he made. Instead, they took the statement quite literally. As the years passed, more discerning biblical scholars studied the components of Samson’s story which included the riddle. They came up with diverse theories that would lead to the answer of the riddle.
“Then the Amorite who lived in that hill country came out against out and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah”
We know for a fact that bees are quite territorial when it comes to their hive. In this particular passage, the Amorite said to be as fierce as the bee chased down an intruder. Bees often swarm and chase intruders whenever their peace or hives have been disturbed. Even it is a creature of small stature, it has quite the fighting spirit to defend and attack its aggressor. In the case of the Amorites, they have been invaded by the Israelites during the time, and in spite of number, they were able to fend them off.
Other interpretations of this passage compare the scenario to bees being smoked out. Back in the day, the only way to attain the honey from the hive is to get the bees to abandon it through smoking. These activities were heavily documented by various writers, even Aristotle.
“They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!”
This particular passage is based upon the very sting of the bee. Their stingers are known to inflict sharp pain which has been compared to that of fire among thorns. The act of being surrounded by bees can be likened to swarming which is an innate reaction to bees that defend their hives. It is a simple yet straightforward comparison of characteristics of being minuscule but feisty at the same time.
“In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.”
The bee in this passage has been used to draw a comparison with flies. If we read further into Exodus, we find out that there were ten plagues in Egypt that were caused by numerous swarms of flies, thus stating that flies are abundant in number but are quite troublesome. An army that supposedly hails from characteristics of a fly would be as destructive. The bees, on the other hand, is compared to the Assyrian army. This is because of their systematic training and orderly march. Like bees, they work in unison and do not just attack blindly that would lead to further destruction. They are effective strategists.
Aside from the bee itself being mentioned in various scriptures, honey is also quite popular. Most of the scriptures focus on the health benefits. Deeming it as liquid gold back in the day. Here are a few notable passages.
“My son, eat honey for it is good and the dripping of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.”
The proverb is a metaphorical comparison with wisdom. Gaining wisdom is delightful and rewarding, like the sweet taste of honey itself. King Solomon was definitely all-wise to use this for an analogy during this time.
“And when the people entered the forest, behold, the honey was dropping. But no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared oth. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, so he put the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth and his eyes became bright.”
In this passage, Jonathan is in Palestine which is literally the land of milk and honey in the olden times. Wild bees are in abundance in this region which would explain the exponential amount of honey in the forest since they choose to settle on limestone rocks and on trees. When the people saw the honey, they refused to touch it in fear of punishment, but Jonathan did not hear his father call for such punishment which is why he took the chance and consumed a bit of honey that was overflowing from the tree.
“It is not good to eat too much honey nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.”
Like most proverbs in the bible, they convey a message of moderation. In Proverbs 25:15, we understand that even in a small amount, your can satisfy your appetite, indulging in more will make you nauseous and sick. Thus resulting in gluttony. This proverb is also focused on men seeking extensive praise from other men. Doing so is said to be shameful and disgusting since glory can be brought up on it’s own without having to carry your own.
“One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.”
Poor people will always have one major advantage over the rich. They have the ability to appreciate the smallest things. In this proverb, we see that the person who is constantly full or have been accustomed to having enough honey around tend to loathe it, whereas people who do not have such luxuries are able to appreciate anything in spite of how little or simple it is. In another scripture, Proverbs 16:24 describes the honeycomb as extremely good and sweet – it is known to be one of the greatest pleasures to have.
Are Bees A Prophetic Sign?
We are quite familiar with the prophesized “second-coming” of the Messiah. With the recent reports on endangerment of certain bee species especially the European Honey Bee, many are speculating that this is the prelude to the worldwide famine fulfilling Matthew 24:7 which states;
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.”
Bees are the top pollinators of the world, without their help there would be a large decline in crop production across the globe. Due to their sudden decrease in population, the speculation of this prophecy coming true has definitely got followers buzzing. However, others argue that pollination can also be done by other insects and animals such as butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, and even humans. A study from the Science Advisory Board states that the significant percentage of dying hives has little to not much effect especially on a global scale since bees are easily replaced as soon as they die. So using their population decrease to tell whether the earth will finally meet its demise is quite ridiculous.
Lessons From Bees on Serving God
Aside from symbolism, a lot of Christians and Jew use bee analogies in their teachings of the bible and its contents. One significant lesson is how being like a bee can help you serve God to your fullest.
Here are ten lessons you can actually apply to your own life:
- Be Wary, Be Cautious
If you have ever been near an active hive, you will notice that the bees start to gather around the closer you get. Bees have scouts that lookout for the hive, and alerts the rest of the colony to swarm an intruder should they become an imminent threat. Bees are quite cautious and territorial.
As humans, we too must lookout for danger. We should be wary of the people we let near our hearts and our homes. We are often unable to identify our enemies that we get caught in a web of problems that we did not really want to be a part of in the first place.
- Eliminate Anything That Hinders Productivity
Bees are very industrious and productive. They keep their hives clean and eliminate any garbage or unneeded debris within the hive before storing honey. This way they are able to keep the hive neat and work efficiently.
If you hoard a lot of clutter, and things you don’t really need, it will hinder your full potential in terms of productivity. By removing the unnecessary garbage around you, you are improving your space and creating a routine that would increase your productivity than hinder it.
- Know When to Get Rid of Toxic Individuals
During winter, worker bees drive away drone bees out of the hive. They do this due to the scarcity of food and supplies within the hive itself. If they keep the drones around, chances are they will not be able to survive the winter with the scarce amount of food they have.
Just like people, we sometimes tolerate having close relationships with people who are simply draining our energy and killing our spirit. Pursuing these negative relationships keeps us farther away from God and His teachings. The negative impact of these individuals cannot be seen first hand, but it may be observed by those closest to us. Parents are quite discerning of these characters and would represent the efficient worker bees getting rid of the drones.
- Stick To Your Role
Bees work in an organized system. In spite of having hundreds and thousands of bees in a single colony, they are able to work efficiently because they stick to each of their roles. The queen’s primary job is to mate and reproduce. Worker bees, on the other hand, are expected to care for the queen by feeding her. They are also responsible for collecting pollen, keeping the hive clean, and making honey. Drones are around to scout and protect the hive, and others specifically care for the larvae, at the end of the day, each bee has a specific role to play and they stick to it.
For us, we do not base our role on our earthly responsibilities but rather focus on your role in God’s kingdom. Know your purpose and listen to His calling. Live by his word and you will be living a life lead by God.
- Be Loyal To One Ruler
There is only one queen in each hive. Only in a time when the queen passes would there be another, but until then the queen will always be the ruler of the colony. Otherwise, bees will only serve that particular queen, and no one else.
It is cited in the ten commandments, “I am the Lord thy God, thou shall not have any strange gods before Me.” This means, that as devout followers, we are only to believe in the presence of a single God only.
- Give Your Best for Faith
In the hive, drones and worker bees eat honey but the queen and her babies eat royal jelly that is specially prepared for them. The worker bees only reserve the best of their products for her.
In terms of worship, we are often told to give our best to faith. Our time, effort, words, praise, and heart, if given in it’s best, will serve a great purpose.
- Live to Serve
As mentioned, worker bees provide for the hive. They clean, make hone, feed the queen, nurse the young, etc. They literally live to serve their queen, and the queen after her. This is how their system works and it is efficient.
We are placed on earth not to bestow time and effort on our earthly desires but to serve Him and achieve the greater purpose of our life and eternal soul.
Bees are willing and ready to sacrifice their lives for a cause, especially if it concerns the queen. Drones will literally die to mate with the queen, scouts will die stinging intruders to protect their queen, and workers subject themselves to the harshness of the world to collect food for their queen.
As a faithful follower, what are you ready to sacrifice for your God? Would you give your life for God and others of faith? The apostles in the bible have been willing and have died for Jesus Christ in the belief that they will have eternal peace in the afterlife. In this day and age, we do not see much of this which is why the lifestyle of bees can be quite admirable on a certain standpoint.
- Work in Unison for the Common Good
Bees are often hunted by a variety of insects and animals. Having a weak hive encourages these predators in attacking and invading the hive which can lead to its collapse and the death of hundreds of bees. When the hive is strong enough, they will defend their home and attack any intruder that comes nearby. One bee may not be enough to kill a lizard that is preying on this, but a swarm can cause real damage. When a hive is strong, the bees work with each other as a team with the ultimate goal of protecting their home.
Individuals often choose to work on their own or function alone, this may seem more convenient at one point but when you take a chance and allow your team to help you, the results are immeasurable. Same goes with a community, one person is enough to influence a whole bunch, but having an entire community rally behind you is amazing.
- Teamwork Produces Sweeter Honey
Going back to Samson’s riddle; What is sweeter than honey? We know that the answer is nothing. In spite of having better technology, researches, and access a wide selection of ingredients, nothing is still the answer. Honey is made through bees regurgitating the nectar from one bee to another. After hours of hard labor, they are able to create the perfect blend.
We have been placed on God’s green earth not to only live for ourselves but to help the people around us grow and know Him in the way we are supposed to. When we are put to work to create a better place through His love from us, we are given endless opportunities and reap sweeter fruits.
The Split of Christianity and Judaism
If you conveniently found yourself on your page, you are probably wondering what the difference between these two religions is. Of the 4,200 recognized religions around the world, Christianity and Judaism are the most similar. Both religions believe in the existence of one God that is infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, and almighty. The same God they believe is loving, forgiving, righteous, just, and merciful. Both religions believe in the existence of heaven, hell, and the belief that God has a plan for Israel and all Jewish people.
In terms of scriptures, both religions believe in the Hebrew scripts of the old testament as has noted it as the “authoritative Word of God.” Christianity, however, includes the new testament. But this is not the major difference in these two beliefs. The main difference in both religions is the person of Jesus Christ. Christianity believes that “Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the old testament prophecies of a coming Messiah.” This is according to scriptures Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7 and Micah 5:2. Whereas in Judaism, they recognize Jesus Christ as a good teacher and a prophet of God, but he is not the Messiah.
Another stirling difference in belief is that Christianity believes that “Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and that he became a human being in order to be the sacrifice for all mankind’s sins” This is based on John 1:1, 14, Hebrew 1:8, Romans 5:8;2 and Corinthians 5:21. Judaism strongly disagrees and denies that Jesus Christ was ever God or that any sacrifice as such was of any importance or need. Therefore, the main distinction in both religions is the role of Jesus Christ.
The bee is truly a remarkable creation that has perfected the way of enduring a systematized living. Having been mentioned in the bible many times proves to show how much these insects have influenced people from olden times to today’s modern society.
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