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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Honey and Bees

"He stretched out the end of the rod that was in his hand and dipped it in a honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his countenance brightened".

1 Samuel 14:27 NKJV

Jonathan, son of King Saul, was at the point of exhaustion after an exhausting battle, when, having found a honeycomb, he began to pluck honey with the tip of a stick and immediately felt invigorated. Let us rewind the ribbon of history for a moment. Saul, king of Israel, for failing to wait for the arrival of the prophet Samuel, had lost his royal right (13:13). He was at war with the Philistines, whose army numbered “3000 chariots, 6000 horsemen, and people as numerous as the sand of the sea” (13:5). He, on the other hand had left with 3,000 men, and is now reduced with only 600 men and one sword. Not knowing what to do he took refuge in Migron, under a pomegranate tree (14:2), because uncertainty prompts one to stay hidden and hope that everything will be all right. Saul's kingship was passive, unprepared, with no future, but his son thinks differently. Unlike his father, he decides to go toward the enemy, in the company of his squire and the only sword left. He does not care about the numerical proportion with the FIlistees; he is moved by the fact that “nothing can prevent the Lord from saving, with little or with much people”(14:6). He shows a kingship that does not hide, that is not afraid to use the few resources he has, does not need a special calling. He just trusts God.

So he sets out and faces a rough path, not complaining, but giving himself a sign as proof (vv. 8-9). It will happen that the two will leave more than twenty Philistines slain, triggering panic in the enemy garrison, where they will begin in panic to kill each other. Verse 15 makes it clear that “the earth shook,” as a sign that what happened was the fruit of God's hand on their lives. Jonathan's move will shake the hosts of Israel, who animatedly come out into the open and set out in pursuit of the enemy, bringing a great victory. By the end of the day, the soldiers are exhausted from fatigue, partly because the king had given orders not to take food. Jonathan does not know this, and when they enter a forest, he sees honey and does not hesitate to take some: “My father has done harm to the land; see how, because I have tasted some of this honey, my sight has cleared up” (v. 29). And here we come to honey, and indirectly to bees. May 20 is World Bee Day, an occasion to raise awareness of the threat to the survival of pollinators par excellence. It is not my place to talk about the ecosystem and nature, although we are all its custodians. The relationship between bees and humans dates back to antiquity, as evidenced by a 7,000 B.C. painting in a cave in Spain depicting a man collecting honey from a wild hive.

In the story of Jonathan, honey has the ability to risk his sight, and Job speaking of one who “kept it hidden under his tongue, savoring it without swallowing it, held it in the midst of his palate” (20:12-13). This leaves me thinking of the Word of God, which should be of the continuous in our mouth and on our lips, unhurriedly loosed to allow it time to release all its sweetness. The prophet Ezekiel had such an experience when after eating the scroll (ch. 3) he felt a taste of honey-like sweetness. The Baptist, too, must have known its qualities, having introduced it into his diet along with locusts. What are we feeding on? If our vision is blurred by fatigue or external circumstances, we take the honey of the Word. Let me spare a thought for the bees, tireless producers of this sweetness, on a par with the Spirit who inspired Scripture. With their industriousness and fluttering leaping from flower to flower, they are an incentive to believers. We too should tirelessly pollinate the whole world with God's love and the juice of His Word. Like them we should be producers of sweetness and bearers of balm. Here I realize that this kind of believer is on the verge of extinction just like bees. Some legends claim that bees never sleep, and thus become for us an image of Christian vigilance and zeal in acquiring virtue. Moreover, we might think of the Christian community as a beehive, where the believer works for the common good and to which he devotes his life. I leave it to you to follow.


Weekly Bible Reading Plan # 22

May 20, 1 Chronicles 13-15; John 7:1-27

May 21, 1 Chronicles 16-18; John 7:28-53

May 22, 1 Chronicles 19-21; John 8:1-27

May 23, 1 Chronicles 22-24; John 8:28-59

May 24, 1 Chronicles 25-27; John 9:1-23

May 25, 1 Chronicles 28-29; John 9:24-41

May 26, 2 Chronicles 1-3; John 10:1-23

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