Until recently, academic scholars have followed the opinion of talmudic sages in reading biblical references to honey as referring not to bees’ honey but to date syrup. Recent discoveries—some of which are now on display at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv—have led them to revise this understanding, as Bible History Daily reports:
Of the 55 times that honey appears in the Hebrew Bible, only twice does it specify bees’ honey (Judges 14:8–9 and 1 Samuel 14:27)—both of which refer to wild bees. Scholars used to believe that the other mentions of honey always referred to fruit honey, which was the common sweetener in ancient times. . . .
However, recent archaeological discoveries show that the ancient Israelites did indeed keep bees. This, coupled with new readings of these Biblical passages, has caused many to reevaluate the accepted interpretation. It seems that some of the 53 appearances of honey in the Hebrew Bible once thought to mean fruit honey actually mean bees’ honey.
Tel Reḥov, a site in the northern Jordan Valley, . . . has yielded discoveries from the 10th and 9th centuries BCE, the time alluded to in the Bible as that of David, Solomon, and the first kings of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Among these discoveries was an apiary—the only [apiary] ever discovered in an archaeological excavation—with remains of bees imported from Anatolia inside the clay hives.