Honey and Honeycomb
When I come across a word or phrase that I am not familiar with, or is rarely used in the Bible, I have to do some research and study into the word or phrase in question. While working on Psalm 19:11 (verse 10 in Christian Bibles) I came across such a phrase—נפת צופים nophet tsuphiym.

My first course of action is to look these words up in my “Ancient Hebrew Lexicon” (AHL) database, beginning with the first word—נפת nophet. According the AHL this word means “honeycomb.” The second word, צופים tsuphiym, is the plural form of צוף tsuph. In the AHL this word is defined as “honey.”

At this point the phrase nophet tsuphiym would be translated as “honeycomb of honeys.” However, I have a problem. One of the premises behind the Mechanical Translation (MT) is that no two Hebrew words will be translated with the same English word. The AHL also has the English word “honey” as the translation of the word דבש davash. So, if davash means “honey,” what does tsuph mean?

The Hebrew word tsuph is only used twice in the Hebrew Bible; this verse and in Proverbs 16:24. Interestingly, in Proverbs 16:24 the phrase is צוף דבש tsuph davash, the two words I translate as “honey” in the AHL. This phrase is translated as “honeycomb” in most translations meaning that they are translating davash as “honey” and tsuph as “comb.” But if tsuph means “comb” (as in “honeycomb”) then what does nophet, which I have translated as “honeycomb,” mean?

Obviously, this needs a little more investigation. Let’s begin with the word nophet.

Nophet comes from the root נוף (N.W.P), which means “to wave,” so nophet should have something to do with “waving.” Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon defines this word as “flowing honey, honey from the comb.” When honey is poured from a bucket, which I have done, the thick fluid does kind of “wave” back and forth as it “flowing” out of the bucket. With this understanding I could translate the word nophet as “flowing honey.”

Now looking at the word tsuph, this word comes from the root צוף (Ts.W.P), which means “to float,” but can also mean “to flow,” such as what honey does as it drips off the “comb.”

We can now translate the phrase nophet tsuphiym in Psalm 19:11 as “flowing honey of honeycombs” and the phrase tsuph davash in Proverbs 16:24 as “honeycomb of honey.”

Psalm 19:11(10) Being craved more than gold and more than abundant pure gold, and sweeter than honey and flowing honey of honeycombs.

Comments? Do you agree or disagree with my conclusions? Any insights welcome.


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