Is the phrase “a land flowing with milk and honey” to be understood literally, and what is literal anyhow? Following the report of the spies who said, “we came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit” (Numbers 13:27), some understood “milk and honey” very literally: “Rami son of Ezekiel once paid a visit to [the town of] Bnei Brak, where he saw goats grazing under fig-trees while honey was flowing from the figs, and milk ran from them, and these mingled with each other. ‘This is indeed’, he remarked, ‘[a land] flowing with milk and honey” (Ketubot 111b).
“Honey,” to clarify, can come from various sources, including bees, dates and figs. The most common honey in biblical times was date honey. The scene described by R. Rami is that of an almost unnatural fig tree laden with honey-dripping fruits, some of which were allowed to fall to the ground as food for goats dripping with what must have been sweet fatty milk.
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