And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
Mark 1:6 (KJV)
Wild honey – I often thought of John as a beekeeper out in the wilderness. He somehow cultivated hives and gathered bees and the bees in turn would gather pollen from the flowers and create honey. Or maybe John would just find natural hives and harvest the wild honey as he went along in the wilderness. But I was wrong.
Have you seen the wilderness in Israel? Let’s take a look at a picture.
Where are the flowers? Where is the plant life? Or trees? Thinking about this again, bees really can’t survive in this wilderness. Even if bees were brought here, they wouldn’t stay. Now granted, there were probably bees somewhere in Israel… like in the farming regions or more cultivated areas. But in the wilderness? No way.
So if John wasn’t eating honey made from bees, what was he eating? The word in Greek is meli which does mean “honey.” But did you know there’s another type of honey in Israel? It comes from dates.
In Israel there are plenty of date trees. They look like palm trees if you’ve never seen one. These grow all over the place, even in the desert although not as frequent. The dates in Israel aren’t like the dates here in the US. They are juicy and plump. Biting into one almost secretes a thick juice which is called “honey.”
John ate date honey in the wilderness. This was amazing to me! Something so simple, so easily boxed into my own interpretation, something I knew without a doubt had to be what I understood it to be — honey — was just thrown upside down. How could I get something so basic, so wrong?
Think of this next time you read the Bible. Ask yourself, “what am I missing when I don’t understand the culture or environment?” It might be something small like honey, but it could be something big. Take the time to investigate the culture and worldview of ancient Israel.