Sounds like: ma-towq.
One of our favourite things about a Prince Edward Island summer, besides the beaches, is ice cream. PEI is known for great food… and ice cream is no exception. If you ever have the chance to visit our red sanded Isle you must try Island Gelato! So YUMMY, so SWEET!
Flavours of food do actually come up in Biblical texts… sour, bitter, bland, salty… and, of course, sweet. Sweet is almost always associated with honey and it is almost exclusively used to highlight a point:
The law of YHWH is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of YHWH is trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of YHWH are right, bringing joy to the heart;
the commandments of YHWH are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of YHWH is pure, enduring forever;
the judgments of YHWH are true, being altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
and sweeter (u-metuq-im) than honey, and the drippings of the honeycomb.
The author here is associating the law, testimony, precepts, commandment, awe and judgement of YHWH to the sweetness of honey. It indicates that you should want to consume these precious, delicious, things. Eat it up!
Ezekiel takes these poetic subtleties and presents a more blatant picture. In his vision he is instructed to literally eat the word of God:
Ezekiel 2:8-10, 3:3
Man of God: “But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.” Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe…
…“Son of man,” He said to me, “eat what you find here. Eat this scroll, then go and speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and He fed me the scroll. “Son of man,” He said to me, “eat and fill your stomach with this scroll I am giving you.” So I ate, and it was as sweet (l’matowq) as honey in my mouth.
Ezekiel’s vision is echoed in John’s revelation:
So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’” I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.
What do these visions mean? With my understanding, it’s telling us that the words and precepts of YHWH are sweet and that we should be devouring them! Although the words taste sweet, with great knowledge comes greater understanding, and that’s not so easy to live with. Life can be bitter and sour and salty… and it becomes even more so once you’ve tasted sweetness. Return to the Word of the Lord and there you will find sweetness to flavour and tenderize the toughness of life.
Eat honey, my son, for it is good,
and the honeycomb is sweet to your taste.
Know that wisdom is sweet (matowq) for your soul.
If you find it, there is a future for you,
and your hope will never be cut off.
We should be seeking the wisdom of YHWH and devouring it… because it is sweet!
This idea of eating and tasting the word of God brings another element of the responsibilities of our mouths. We should ingest the word of God and what comes out of our mouths should reflect the wisdom we receive by eating the word. James makes this clear and uses the Greek word glukos (where our word glucose comes from) to describe water:
With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be! Can both sweet [glukos] water and bitter water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree grow olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce sweet [glukos] water.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good conduct, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbour in your hearts bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, do not boast in it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap the fruit of righteousness.
James gets this point from Yeshua:
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
We commend fruit for its sweetness… so we devour the sweet word of YHWH and gain wisdom, and from that wisdom comes good fruit, the fruit of righteousness. We should not be ingesting sweetness and spewing out bitterness.
This metaphor takes a whole new turn when the Gospel of John introduces the concept of Yeshua being “the Word”:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
So if we are to devour or consume the Word of God, then are we not consuming Jesus? Jesus makes it clear that that is what we are to do:
“I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And this bread, which I will give for the life of the world, is My flesh.”
And how did this manna, that Jesus speaks of, taste to the ancient Hebrew people?:
Now the house of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.
However, after Jesus states that he is the bread of life, the new sweet manna from heaven, and that this bread is his flesh, many are confused by his statement:
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”
Jesus takes this concept and repeats it in the Last Supper with his disciples.
And He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.”
It is a metaphor and and yes, it is a bit of a strange one. It confused people then… and it has confused people today. Second century Romans accused this new group called Christians as cannibals because they ate the flesh and drank the blood of their Messiah. But it’s not a cannibalistic concept, it’s a metaphor. Jesus said he was like manna, he came from heaven to give us sustenance… but not just to live on earth. He died so we can live eternally. Jesus’ body and blood was poured out as a sacrifice. His claim is that he had to die so that we could truly live. Being the bread of life is a way of making us understand that if we internally ingest the words and life of Yeshua, our life will no longer need sustenance from this world. Our life will be eternally, continually sustained by God.
Jesus is the bread of life, and like the manna from heaven that bread is sweet to taste. Jesus is the Word, the same Word that Ezekiel is instructed to consume, the same Word that John envisions in the Revelation.
Psalm 34:8a tells us to “taste and see that YHWH is good.“ The Word of God is sweet. It is good. Read it! Dive in and taste! It is not surprising that a common response to the modern Hebrew question, “How are you doing”, is “Hakol dvash” (הַכֹּל דְּבַשׁ). Literally that is saying “Everything is honey”. It’s all sweet! It’s all good! That is the kind of goodness Yeshua brings. Experience Jesus, read the word of God, and taste for yourself.
Next week: sand