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“A land flowing with milk and honey” in Deuteronomy

Mi-Sook Lee 1

1장로회신학대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

“A land flowing with milk and honey” is one of the most famous descriptions of the land of Israel. As a symbol of Paradise, the description has been properly interpreted as the special land that God gave the Israelites. Does it mean, however, the ideal condition of the best productive land? This question arises when we consider Israel’s geographical condition. Because, although Israel was more suitable to stock farming and honey was recorded as a main export(Ezk 27:7), it was not an ideal, fertile land. Then, can we interpret the description of “a land flowing with milk and honey” as symbolic or realistic? This study aims to find another explanation for this controversial question. The study seeks, first, to find in the Old Testament the distribution and pattern of the land formula, “a land flowing with milk and honey,” and then to determine its hermeneutic meaning through an exegesis of the passages in Deuteronomy where it occurs. The exegesis shows, first, that the formula was used as an image of the fertile land that was the foundation for the flourishing of the offspring of the Israelites and their longevity. Then the formula is discussed in a theological reflection, since it is premised on the land that was promised to the forefathers, with Yahweh as the giver of it. Second, because the formula in Deuteronomy shows a feature used in a ceremony and a liturgy, it recalls a redemptive meaning linked to the Exodus. This study uncovers a theological meaning that has been overlooked in previous studies on the land formula, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” This formula in Deuteronomy must be an image of the land of Israel as fertile or having other qualities. Nonetheless, a writer(or an editor) of Deuteronomy took a step forward and described it thoroughly in relation to Yahweh. The redemptive meaning connoted in the formula in Deuteronomy seems to influence the subject of the restoration of the land in Jeremiah 32, Ezekiel 20, and Nehemiah 9, which will be studied in the future.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.