Psalm 81-Honey from the Rock

Honey from the rock?  Psalm 81:16 has that odd phrase.  God has made his people a conditional promise.  If they would commit themselves to God (v. 13), then he would deal with the Assyrians (vs. 14 and 15) and nourish his people with the finest wheat and honey from the rock (v. 16).

Some think this refers back to the waters of Meribah in verse 7.  According to the Pentateuch,  it was at Meribah that God caused water to flow from a rock.  So this would be a heightening of that experience.  Not just plain old water, but honey would flow from the rock.  God would go beyond the necessary and provide not just manna, but the finest wheat, and not just water, but sweet nectar.

But it seems to me that we need to interpret this according to the one other place in scripture where this image occurs.  That is in Deuteronomy 32:13. Also the phrase the “finest of wheat” is in Deuteronomy 32:14 and Psalm 81:16.. Deuteronomy 32 is an ancient poem that has been added to Deuteronomy.  David Noel Friedman dated it to the ninth century based on the language being very old Hebrew.  So Psalm 81 may allude to this older poem.

“He made him ride on the high places of the earth,
He ate the produce of the field;
He made him to suck honey out of the rock,
Oil out of the flinty rock.”
Deuteronomy 32:13

Deuteronomy 32 never mentions Meribah or water from the rock.  What the Deuteronomy 32 passage seems to be about is what happened when Israelite tribesmen entered the hill country of Ephraim.   They rode into these hills on donkeys.  They found the land rocky, but they still found enough to eat.  They terraced the hills and built cisterns and many small villages according the archeology of the 11th century BCE.  They were able to grow olive trees for oil and produce honey (which some think really meant a kind of nectar made from figs) in this rocky hill country.  Verse 14 talks about milk.  Remember that the people were looking for a land flowing with milk and honey.

Their hill country existence seems poor and precarious to us.  But to people who had endured thirst and hunger in the wilderness, it really was a land flowing with milk and honey.  It represented God’s care for them.  Psalm 81 promises that God will care for his people again, if they turn to him.

When I finish the Psalms of Asaph, I plan to do a post of two about Deuteronomy 32, which we shall see seems somehow related to the Psalms of Asaph.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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