God

The Land of Milk and Honey

March 11, 2024

Then we cried out to the Lord God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 26:9); 

These verses are taken from the text that was recited by someone bringing first fruits to the Temple in Jerusalem each year. There are several lessons we can derive from the precise wording of this statement.

And the Lord heard our voice

Throughout the Bible generally, and the Exodus story in particular, we find God listening to “the voice” of His people. It is important to note that in many contexts in the Bible the Hebrew word for “voice,” kol, does not refer to the words that are spoken. Rather, kol more narrowly refers to the actual sound of the voice. For example,

The end of this verse appears repetitive. What is the difference between saying that God “would not listen to your voice” and saying that He would not “give ear to you”? The answer is that “voice” – kol – refers more to the way something is said, rather than the content of the words. This verse from Deuteronomy 1 is saying that when the children of Israel sinned by weeping in despair after the negative report of the spies regarding the land of Israel, God did not listen to the pain and despair in the sound of their cries in addition to not paying attention to the actual content of their complaint. 

What’s more, the word kol translated as voice, is actually the word for “sound.” For example,

The Hebrew for “sound of the trumpet” is kol shofar. To sum up the point: the primary meaning of the word kol is “sound” or “voice,” not the content of the words that are spoken.

What’s the point of all this?

Let’s reread the verses we are studying here. 

and the Lord heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.

First God “heard our voice.” This led God to “look” and the rest of the Exodus story proceeded from there. In other words, the initial step in the redemption process was God hearing “our voice,” our kol.

In other words, the exact words that were said by the children of Israel when they cried out to God is an irrelevant point. God heard “our voice.” He listened to the pain, the suffering, and the anguish that was expressed in that cry to Him.

There is an important message for us whenever we are going through a period of hardship. When we are in need, we must call out to God. Oftentimes, people hesitate to pray in the most heartfelt way because they feel that they don’t possess the right words. They fear that they just don’t know how to pray to God. But God loves us. He’s our father. We must never hesitate to cry out to Him because we lack confidence in the content of our prayers. God hears our kol. No matter the exact choice of words, God hears our pain. And as we see in our verses, when God hears our honestly expressed heartfelt pain, this leads Him to “see” and redeem us.

Milk and Honey

I would like to address another phrase in the verses we are studying. The land of Israel is called a land flowing with milk and honey. Elsewhere, we see the bounty of the land of Israel described by listing certain indigenous fruits and produce.

So why does our verse mention only “milk and honey”? This question is especially relevant considering that this passage is part of what was recited upon presenting the first fruits to the Temple. Milk is not a fruit. I would have expected the description of the land of Israel here to focus more on the bounty of the land that is relevant to the first fruits.

I’d like to suggest that the choice of milk and honey here teaches a powerful message about the entire passage preceding it. Here is the full text recited by one who brought first fruits.

And you shall proclaim and say before the Lord your God: ‘My father was a lost Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. But the Egyptians mistreated us, afflicted us, and placed hard labor upon us. We cried out to the Lord God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression. The Lord took us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land which you, Lord, have given me.’ – Deuteronomy 26:5-10

We see that a person presenting first fruits at the Temple recounted the earliest history of the children of Israel, going all the way back to the patriarchs. The declaration then connects the story of the patriarchs with the current bounty of the land being enjoyed by the one bringing his fruits.

The point of milk is to nurture the young. Milk is produced by mothers for that purpose. Milk represents growth and building the future. Honey, on the other hand, is a preservative. In fact, in the ancient world, the primary use of honey was as a preservative. This is due to the fact that honey does not spoil. Honey can be stored for centuries and it will remain sweet. 

Milk and honey represent building towards the future and preserving the past. The nation of Israel was redeemed from exile and given the land of Israel as a place to build the future.

This dual theme of the land of Israel is truer in our times than it has ever been. The land of Israel is obviously rich in history. Anyone who visits Israel is constantly in direct contact with the history of Biblical faith going all the way back to Abraham. But the land of Israel is also the focal point for the future. No other nation has developed and flourished as rapidly as Israel over the last few decades. More importantly, the future of God’s kingdom here on Earth will be based in Jerusalem and the land of Israel.

Israel is the land of milk and honey because no land is more connected to the future of the world than Israel, and no land preserves the past of the world as Israel does.

Israeli soldiers are risking their lives to protect us all from Islamic terrorism. But they need our help. Sign up for Israel365 Action to receive updates on how YOU can help fight Hamas and its supporters in the United States and around the world.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Subscribe

Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email

Recent Posts
A Night of Miracles
Preparations for Passover with Rabbi Elie Mischel
Biblical Leprosy and the Power of Words

Related Articles

God

By: Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Subscribe

Sign up to receive daily inspiration to your email