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Bee's honey—from realia to metaphor in biblical wisdom literature

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image of Vetus Testamentum

The word děbāš in the Bible denotes various types of fruit syrup as well as the honey produced by bees. An overview of the literary adaptation of honey in biblical narrative and poetry leads us to an impressive assemblage of honey metaphors in the wisdom books of Proverbs and Job. This study identifies four rhetorical categories which encompass both didactic and reflective frameworks of honey imagery: A. 'Honey' as a metaphor of internalization wisdom and attaining good reputation; B. 'Honey' as a symbol of restraint and moderation against overindulgence; C. 'Honey' as a metaphor for temptation and ensnarement; D. 'Honey' in the context of the two antithetical idiomatic expressions; "Honey under the tongue" and "venom under the tongue". These expressions serve to draw an ideational contrast between the pleasant words of the Wise and the evil stratagems of the Wicked. My investigation will provide insight into the way that particular qualities of raw bee honey inspired the composers of the various metaphors.

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