Continuing our series on the significance and symbolism of food in the Bible, let’s turn our focus to milk (you can find Bread in the Bible in this post).

A little boy drinking milk with a milk moustache and a text overlay that says Milk in the Bible - Food and Symbolism

 

Milk in the Bible

Most of us are familiar with Bible verses that include “the land of milk and honey”, but did you know that the Bible mentions milk more than fifty times in the Old Testament, alone? And, each time it is mentioned, it refers to a spiritual blessing!

 

Most of us are familiar with Bible verses that include “the land of milk and honey”, but did you know that the Bible mentions milk more than fifty times in the Old Testament, alone? And, each time it is mentioned, it refers to a spiritual blessing!Click to Tweet

 

What Type of Milk Was Mentioned in the Bible?

 “On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of Egypt into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands.” – Ezekiel 20:6

 

 “They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.” – Numbers 13:27

 

Many assume that the milk referred to was from nuts, such as almonds. However, if we look a few more verses, we will learn that couldn’t be correct.

 

“The men did so, and took two milk cows and yoked them to the cart and shut up their calves at home.” – 1 Samuel 6:10 (ESV)

 

“He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.” – Genesis 18:8

 

“For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.” – Proverbs 30:33 (ESV)

 

Curds can only be produced from animal milk – not nuts or other sources of milk. Clearly, the milk referred to in these verses is from cows or goats.

 

 For a list of key Bible verses about milk, click the image below for a printable version.

 

Bible verses about Milk, milk in the Bible

 

The Meaning of Milk in the Bible

Milk continues to be a staple in our diet today, but it held (and still holds) a more important position in eastern and middle-eastern countries than in North America.

 

Milk isn’t just for infants or children or a simple ingredient in cooking.

 

It is simple and filled with nutrients (physical and spiritually).

 

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,” – 1 Peter 2:2

 

But, is compared with meat or solid food in the Bible, indicating that milk is less hearty or easier to digest than meat or other solid food.

 

 “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” – 1 Corinthians 3:2

 

 “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” – Hebrews 5:12

 

Milk gives sustenance but that many are not yet ready for solid food (deeper teaching).

 

Free Bible Study Worksheets optin

Want to Dig Deeper with Bible Symbolism?

My FREE BIble Study Worksheets can help! With a SOAP Study Worksheet and instructions plus an in-depth worksheet to help you apply His Word to your life.

Grab it below!

 

Milk in the Old Testament

There are many variations of words for milk and milk products in the Old Testament (see below), but milk clearly was a staple of the Hebrew diet.

 

Variations of the word include sweet milk, soured milk (This soured milk was carried by travelers who mixed it with meat, dried it, and then dissolved it in water to make a refreshing drink such as that set by Abraham before the messengers (Genesis 18:8 ), cheese, butter, curds and symbols of blessing and abundance.

 

As mentioned above, most milk came from cows (Isaiah 7:21-22), sheep and goats  (Proverbs 27:27 ; Deuteronomy 32:14 ); and of course, humans (Isaiah 28:9).

 

Butter and cheese were also made and eaten by those in Old Testament times (1 Samuel 17:18 ) as well as curdled, sour milk which still forms, after bread. It was one of the main foods of the poorer classes in Arabia and Syria.

 

After setting awhile, the drink (sour milk) would carry an intoxicating effect leading some to believe that the fermented variety is the drink that Jael gave to Sisera (Judges 4:19 ).

 

It is interesting to note that Abraham was from a pastorate tribe who traveled with the growing seasons to allow animals to graze, making milk one of the main (and often only) sources of nutrition?

 

Additionally (and this is a good one!), Isaiah prophesied about Jesus as a child and mentioned him eating (drinking) milk (or curds) and honey?

 

“He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right,” – Isaiah 7:15

 

In the Old Testament, milk is most often mentioned with honey to symbolize blessing and abundance. Here are some of the most common references to milk and honey in the Bible (Old Testament):

 

 “And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’” – Exodus 3:17

 

 “But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations.” – Leviticus 20:24

 

 “Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.” – Deuteronomy 6:3

An image of flowing milk against a light blue background with Deuteronomy 6:3 quoted

 “The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord. For the Lord had sworn to them that they would not see the land he had solemnly promised their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.” – Joshua 5:6

 

Milk in the Bible has also been used to symbolize whiteness (Lamentations 4:7 ) and as a symbol of marital bliss (Song of Solomon 4:11).

 

Puzzling Reference to Milk in the Bible

One of the most puzzling (and possibly disconcerting) mention of milk in the Bible is related to “not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk”. It is mentioned several times in the Old Testament including in the below scriptures.

 

“Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God. Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” – Exodus 23:19

 

“Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to the foreigner residing in any of your towns, and they may eat it, or you may sell it to any other foreigner. But you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” – Deuteronomy 14:21

 

Biblical scholars have argued that this meant milk and meat should not be cooked or eaten together. 

 

Other scholars believe that it relates to the Caananite sacrifices, but there is not conclusive evidence to support either theory.

 

 

Hebrew Words for Milk and Milk Products in the Bible

It is intriguing to me that the Hebrews have many different words for milk and milk products, in the New Testament, the Greeks have a fraction of that number. Here are the most commonly used Hebrew words for milk and milk products in the Old Testament.

 

chalab
milk

חָלָב
(khaw-lawb’)

___________________________

 

matsats
to drain out, to suck

מָצַץ

(maw-tsats’)

_____________________________

 

yanaq
to suck, give milk, nursing mother, give, make to sucking child, nurse, nursing

יָנַק

(yä·nak’)

______________________________

 

atin
pail, bucket, breast. From an unused root meaning apparently to contain; a receptacle (for milk, ie Pail; figuratively, breast)

עֲטִין

(at-een’)

______________________________

 

ul
to suckle or give milk, to nurse, a suckling child or a few days’ old infant

עוּל

(ool)

________________________________

 

qapha’
Thicken (as unracked wine, curdled milk, clouded sky, frozen water), congeal, curdle, dark, settle.

קָפָא

(kaw-faw’)

___________________________________

 

chemah
Butter, curd. From the same root as chowmah; curdled milk or cheese.

חֶמְאָה

(khay-maw’)

______________________________________

 

gebinah
Cheese, curd. Feminine from the same as gibben; curdled milk or cheese.

גְּבִנָה

(gheb-ee-naw’)

 

 

Free Bible Study Worksheets optin

Want to Dig Deeper with Bible Symbolism?

My FREE BIble Study Worksheets can help! With a SOAP Study Worksheet and instructions plus an in-depth worksheet to help you apply His Word to your life.

Grab it below!

 

Milk in the New Testament

 Variations of the word milk are only found five times in the New Testament (compared to over forty times in the Old Testament).

 

All references to the meaning of milk in the Bible, found in the New Testament, are symbolic. Each refers to the basics of Christian life. In biblical times, people could live on milk only for perhaps days, but eventually would need more substance. Similar to our walk as Christians, right?

 

All references to the meaning of milk in the Bible, found in the New Testament, are symbolic. Each refers to the basics of Christian life. In biblical times, people could live on milk only for perhaps days, but eventually would need more substance. Similar to our walk as Christians, right?Click to Tweet

 

“I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” – 1 Corinthians 3:2

 

 “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?” – 1 Corinthians 9:7

A baby lying in a bassinet drinking a bottle of milk and 1 Corinthians 3:2 quoted

 “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” – Hebrews 5:12-13

 

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,” – 1 Peter 2:2

 

 

Greek Words for Milk and Milk Products in the Bible

gala
milk

γάλα

(gal’-ah)

 

________________________________

 

thelazo
to suckle, to nurse or suck milk.

θηλάζω

(thā-lä’-zō)

_________________________________

 

achreioo
to make useless, turn sour  (as in milk)

ἀχρειόω

(akh-ri-o’-o)

 

 Interesting Facts About Other Dairy Products in the Bible

 

Cheese is mentioned as food only twice in the Bible

 

In the NIV and ESV versions of the Bible, the word “cheese,” or curdled milk, appears four times and only once as food.

 

 “Did you not pour me out like milk

    and curdle me like cheese,” – Job 10:10

 

In this verse, Job is lamenting to God about his life and all that has befallen him. He asks God, “did you not our me out like milk and curdle me like cheese”. Likely, he was referring to curdled milk since prior to Job, there were no other references to cheese as a food and Job was written before 1 Samuel, the first biblical reference to cheese as food.

 

The first mentions of cheese in the Bible as food

 

 “Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance from them.” – 1 Samuel 17:18

 

 “honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, “The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.” – 2 Samuel 17:29

 

In the above scripture, David’s son Absalom had stood up against his father. As David and his supporters were advancing, three men from Ammon and Gilead (unbelievers), brought food, including cheese, and other items to assist and sustain them.

 

Butter, on the other hand is mentioned at least nine times, all in the Old Testament and always in reference to a food (as opposed to symbolic).

 

From Milk to Meat, Sermon on Spiritual Milk and the Christian Walk

While researching this post, I came across this sermon from Stillwater Bible Church about milk and the Christian walk. It’s less than thirty minutes and and makes some interesting points.

 

 

 

 For more study on milk in the Bible and Bible symbolism, you may enjoy these recommended resources:

 

 

 

 

 

What was your biggest takeaway from this post on the meaning of milk in the Bible? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop a comment below and share.

 

Because of Him,

Sue

A bottle of milk and a cup of milk next to a gingham blue towel and a text overlay that says Milk in the Bible - Food and Symbolism in Scripture

 

 

 

 

 

Susan is a writer, speaker and the creator of Women of Noble Character ministries. She is passionate about helping Christian women deepen their walk with God through Bible study and creative worship and strengthen their marriages.

She lives in rural North Central Missouri with her handsome and hilarious husband and a myriad of dogs, cats and chickens.

Susan runs on Jesus, coffee and not enough sleep.
Susan Nelson