4:11 “Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue.” Some commentators feel that Solomon is describing the pleasure of passionate kissing in this verse, but the word picture of lips dripping honey is hard to reconcile with kissing per se (unless you like really sloppy kisses), so perhaps it could be more easily be understood as a flow of sweet words which Solomon meant figuratively as a description of her speech rather than primarily as a metaphor for kissing. The Hebrew word for “dripping” is natap, and means “to drop of its own accord.” The word for honey is nopet and means the literal honey found wild in the comb. The picture is of the honeycomb dripping as in I Samuel 14:6,29 when Jonathan dipped the end of his rod into the honey and his eyes were enlightened. Let’s consider how honey is made, its nature and value, and its impact on those who find it. First, making honey is a slow process. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, bees gather nectar by sucking the sweetness out of the flowers and brushing their bodies against the pollen on the blossoms. The bees fill up their “honey bag” (or honey stomach) with nectar, and then return to the hive. While the nectar is in the bees’ stomach, certain enzymes are added to it, which break down the nectar into simple sugars, and after the bee has returned from his flight, he sucks the honey back up from his stomach and deposits it into a tiny wax cell in the comb. In the comb, the honey distills as the water evaporates out, and eventually the bees put a wax seal on the cell to keep the honey fresh for future use. By the end of a prosperous season, hives are overflowing with succulent honey oozing from the combs. The honey of the soul is gathered like thoughts drawn from the flowers of this life…all the ideas we sip and all the experiences we brush up against as we work. Just as there are many types of honey, so there are many types and qualities of thoughts, and as faithful “worker bees,” we should take great care in finding the best orchards in which to work. The sweetest, purest thoughts come from the sure word of truth. “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103). “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned, and in keeping of them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:9-11).After our thoughts are gathered, they are digested (meditation) and stored in the hive of the mind, where they are left to distill into ideas which are sealed up to keep fresh until needed. Good ideas, like good honey, are not made quickly. They are carefully and slowly processed over a long period and stored up for the proper time. Good ideas, like good honey, are pure, sweet, and edifying. And, like a full honeycomb at the end of a prosperous season, a mind saturated with good ideas will eventually “drip honey”—dispense lovely, encouraging words.
What is the nature of honey? Honey is that which sweetens and strengthens. “What is sweeter than honey?” (Judges 1:18). Encouraging speech is similar: “Pleasant words are as the honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). What is the value of honey? It was greatly valued. Jacob sent it with his gifts to the pharaoh (Genesis 43:11), and throughout Scripture it was used as a symbol of the rich prosperity of a land (Numbers 14:8—Israel; Numbers16:13—Egypt, etc.). The honey of wisdom is similarly valued in the Scripture: “My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste: So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:13-14). Wisdom is the honey of the soul, and just as Jonathan’s eyes were enlightened by tasting honey, so our eyes are enlightened by tasting the sweetness of true wisdom.
What is the impact of honey on those who find it? “Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15). It is only after we feast on the true butter and honey of Truth that we can discern good from evil and know to choose good. Those who have only eaten the rancid lard and moldy cake of this world do not know there is anything better.
How true this is of love! The world portrays love as synonymous with starry-eyed infatuation—the outpouring of devotion that is as watery as nectar and no more satisfying. Worse, the world’s counterfeit to love is lust, which would be poisoned honey—not to build up, but to destroy. The world does not understand true, sacrificial love, and it is only when they experience being truly loved by the magnificence of God’s love (or others who have been transformed by it) that they learn to discern good from evil and choose the good.
How true this is of speech! The bride’s speech did not babble on and on like thin drivel, it dropped with the distilled richness of golden honey: rich thoughts, rich ideas, rich words of praise and prayer. As Spurgeon said, “He is a wise man that knows how to speak well, but he is a great deal wiser man who knows how to hold his tongue.”