A Land Flowing with “Milk and Honey”

By Jane Birch

The Old Testament describes the Promised Land as a “land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8) so some people argue we should be drinking milk, but is this description of the Promised Land meant to be dietary advice? Note that the Promised Land is also described as a “land of corn and wine” (Deuteronomy 33:28). Does that mean we should also be drinking wine? It seems both phrases are descriptions of the abundant and fertile nature of the Promised Land, not dietary advice for optimal human foods in the 21st century.

The phrase “milk and honey” is an idiom. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means “prosperity and abundance; richness of produce; plenty, comfort; also attrib.” Milk and honey (like corn and wine) are symbols of fertility that appear in the most ancient writings. Bees are critical to plant production. Even today, about a third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination, and bees are the main pollinators. A land that flows with honey is a land where bees are doing their work, enabling plants grow, so the milk can flow from animals to feed their young. When the spies sent by Moses to scout out the Promised Land wanted to show evidence that the land was flowing with milk and honey, they brought back grapes, pomegranates, and figs (Numbers 13:23–27).

Clearly, America is also a land flowing with milk and honey. America produces lots of plants, which can be used to create plant-based milks, like soy and rice. We also have lots of plants to feed the animals so they can produce lots of milk. That does not mean it is right for us to take the milk the mother cows are producing for their young or health promoting for us to drink it.

The Promised Land may have been a land flowing with milk and honey, but Proverbs 25:27 tells us, “It is not good to eat much honey.” Could not the same thing be said about milk? Just because something is abundant does not mean we should consume a lot of it.

No doubt just as the ancient Israelites drank wine, they consumed some of the animal milk when they were able, but then the dietary advice they were given differs substantially from the Word of Wisdom. We should not use what they did or did not eat as a guide to how we eat today when the Lord has specifically given us D&C 89, the Word of Wisdom for our day.

Do the scriptures tell us to not consume dairy?

Dairy is not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. I find it interesting that the Lord specifically ordains the use of plants, meat in times of need, and grain, but He doesn’t ordained dairy for anything.

Well over half the world’s population is lactose intolerant. Could it be that Adam and Eve were also lactose intolerant? It was not until later in human history when certain populations began milking animals and consuming their milk that they developed the enzymes to digest lactose. Normally humans (like all mammals) lose the ability to digest lactose after they are weaned. That is what happens to most of the world’s population. They do not have the enzymes to digest lactose because after they are weaned, they no longer need them.

While we don’t have scriptures that tell us not to drink dairy, it is a fact that dairy is not a essential food. Billions of people grow stronger and healthy without ever consuming dairy after they are weaned. God designed our bodies without the need for dairy and indeed the majority of His children get sick if they try to consume it.

I think the real case against dairy comes from science. Experts say they see the most health improvements when people give up dairy. Given that God never tells us to use dairy (and most of His children would get sick if they did), clearly it is a choice. There is certainly no moral harm in eliminating dairy. Give it up for at least a month and see what happens.

See also:

See also: Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective by Jane Birch

Last updated: November 7, 2016

Comments

  1. Jane, having grown up in Germany, I can only add to the view point about milk. While cheese is and was an integral part of the German diet, as well as butter and cream, no one drank milk as was/is the custom in America. Of course we had the occasional cup of hot chocolate, but that was it – well, pudding from time to time. My grandmother did not have osteoporosis, nor did my mother, nor do I.
    But in the last 50 years or so dairy consumption has increased, because American wisdom rules. But even now, I don’t know anyone who serves a big glass of milk with their meals.
    Hildegard

    • Dear Hildegard: Thanks for sharing. I always feel ashamed when I think of how we are exporting our horrible diet around the world! Most immigrants to America would do well to not change their diets after they arrive. Alas, it is hard to resist the American rich foods!

  2. I was raised drinking cow’s milk. In my teen years we bought raw milk from a local farmer and skimmed the cream to make our own butter or whipped cream. I found a long tall glass of cold milk refreshing after a day of house painting in the hot California sun.

    After one of my children complained of abdominal pain with each meal – which invariable included a glass of milk – I started to research and found that our bodies really aren’t equipped to subsist on such food. Why should a human child need to drink the milk of a cow which is designed for rapid maturity? Unfortunately due to familial resistance to change, we did not completely cut out dairy, though I have made slow changes over the years.

    Now that I am entering my senior years, diagnosed with arthritis a year ago, I am returning to what I felt was best so long ago. I have dramatically reduced my intake of dairy and other animal products and am finding the inflammation reduced to minimal pain. I am trying different WFPB recipes without telling my husband or family and they are finding them delicious. Thanks for your efforts.

  3. I think you are wresting the scriptures to support an otherwise untenable position. I researched at least 65 references to milk in the scriptures; more than half of them referred to the milk of domestic animals as either drink or food. The minority of them referred to a “land of milk and honey” to describe a land of abundance. But, God would not describe a land chosen for the blessing of His children as “land of milk and honey” if milk and honey were not good for the use of man. Only 3 times in scripture is the phrase “corn and wine” used to describe a goodly land. Corn and wine are referenced in other places as food (corn) and drink (wine). But, though alcoholic wine existed in Biblical times, wine was a term used to describe “fruit of the vine”, including nonalcoholic grape juice, as described in the caution of D&C 89 that wine for the sacrament was to be “pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make”. And, yes, that kind of pure wine we are supposed to drink.

    • Actually, as you may know, the wine described in D&C 89 is no longer used in the sacrament and is specifically forbidden by Church leaders. 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, meaning they can get sick if they consume milk. It doesn’t sound like God designed it as the ideal food for most humans, but we are each free to make up our own minds. Thanks for sharing your ideas, and I applaud your searching the scriptures for answers!

      • “Lactose intolerance” came about because of pasteurization. When the milk is heated, the enzyme, Lactase that’s in it, which is necessary for digesting the milk sugar, Lactose, is killed. Hence, digestion upset in many people. However, I’ve seen numerous accounts (my husband being one of them) of people who not only can consume whole raw milk with no problem, but actually thrive on it! And it is something that has been consumed by people down through the ages with no problem. Again, “lactose intolerance” is a modern-day problem only because men messed around with the food.

        As more and more people look for answers to the health questions and problems of our day, they are “turning to the hearts of their fathers” and their traditional wise ways. Raw milk sales are on the rise, but nobody’s getting sick and nobody’s dying. You’ll find just as many doctors and scientists on this side of it as on the other. Drs. Joseph Mercola and Josh Axe come to mind right off the top of my head. So the science is NOT settled. If it were, there would be no debate and no doctors supporting the consumption of whole raw milk.

        • Clarification: I meant to say that my husband is “lactose intolerant” when he consumes pasteurized dairy products … but not when he drinks whole raw milk … but I didn’t make that very clear above.

  4. Many people have problems digesting pasteurized milk because the enzyme Lactase has been killed, which is needed to digest the milk sugar, Lactose. My husband is “lactose-intolerant” but has absolutely no trouble drinking raw milk. Also, I heard of a study done where they fed pasteurized milk to baby cows. The cows all died. It’s not the milk. It’s what’s done to the milk … and, for that matter, the cows. Factory farms must pasteurize the milk because it’s loaded with garbage from sickly cows. Not so when it comes to raw milk from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows. I find it interesting to see how raw milk sales are on the rise because people are getting educated and are turning back to traditional ways.

    Btw, referring to “land of corn and wine” … wine is specifically prohibited in the Word of Wisdom, but not milk. Two totally different things. If milk was bad for us, don’t you think the Lord would have told us not to drink it, just like He did with wine?

    • Btw … not everything that’s healthy for us is laid out in the Word of Wisdom. How about water consumption? (which must be filtered these days in order to avoid health-damaging chlorine, fluoride, etc.) How about getting enough sleep? Etc. The Word of Wisdom is the basics and, just like the Brother of Jared, the Lord wants us to use our minds and figure it out for ourselves with what’s best for us individually. I’ve seen many people heal using raw milk, raw eggs (from healthy, pasture-raised hens), etc. It is too vast to be ignored.

    • The Word of Wisdom also says nothing about cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, opium, sugary drinks, candy, and all manner of junk foods. The Word of Wisdom teaches by principle not by lists of do’s and don’ts. You said it well, it is simple. I think the principle is to not use animal foods except in times of need. I also believe science strongly supports that this is better for our bodies. I believe the evidence also strongly demonstrates that raw milk and eggs are both very dangerous and very unhealthy. Here is a useful video about this, “Dr Pam Popper: Raw Milk/Bacterial Infection.” I do recognize that others may have a different interpretation. Thanks for sharing your opinions!

      • Just as with the Brother of Jared, the Lord left a lot of the Word of Wisdom up to us to figure out for ourselves because He wants us to use our minds and learn to think for ourselves. So, yes, many things that are NOT good for our bodies are not listed, but it’s up to us to figure that out … just as there are also many things that ARE good for our bodies that are not listed, but, again, it’s up to us to figure that out.

        The evidence I’ve seen shows that raw milk sales are on the rise and nobody’s dying and nobody’s getting sick. In fact, they are healing! I’ve also seen raw egg consumption (from healthy, pasture-raised hens, of course – the way God intended them to be raised) heal so many people … and I’m one of those people. With all of the lies and scare tactics out there, you better believe that I researched this with a fine-tooth comb before doing it myself.

        Again, the science is NOT settled. If it were, there would be no debate on these issues and doctors like Joseph Mercola and Josh Axe (just to name two of many) would not be prescribing such foods.

  5. Jane, I know your intentions are good, but you are just making stuff up here. How do you know it is not dietary advice? You are not authorized to interpret the scriptures for others and as far as I know, those who are authorized have not said anything like that.

    Yes, milk and honey are a reference to the richness of the land, but that is the point. If milk and honey were not good to consume, it would make for a really lousy analogy. There are a lot of other words the Lord could have used. Israelites consumed a lot of dairy products (primarily from goats) as well as honey. The term meant something to them!

    Lactose intolerance is strictly a modern health issue. I agree that modern dairy products are not good for us but that is because of modern processing, pasteurization and homogenization. Most people who are lactose intolerant can consume raw dairy products with no problem because of the naturally occurring enzymes and digestive friendly bacteria that are present. That is the way the ancient people consumed them. Current health science is rapidly becoming aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy gut flora and nothing does that better than raw dairy products.

    I’ll also toss in that corn and wine (in the form of grape juice) are also healthy and tasty. All drinks made from grapes were referred to as wine in ancient times. Jesus even turned water into wine! Was that a sin? It is the strength of the drink (amount of alcohol) that is at issue as described in the Word of Wisdom.

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