Was the honey that Samson ate from the inside of the lion (Judges 14:8-9) kosher?

There are two premises to my question: 1) The derivation that bee's honey os kosher is from the Talmud, which, obviously, did not exist in Samson's time. Any place the Torah refers to "honey" as in the listing of the 7 sepcies, it means date honey.

Next - the honey was inside the gut of a lion, which is a non-kosher animal. Or, can we assume that since the lion was already dead, and the bees built the hive after it was dead, then the hive is not considered inside the lion, which would otherwise make it kosher?

  • I don't understand the relevance of the first premise.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 15:27
  • Seconded, this doesn't mean that bees' honey was not the honey of this story. The Talmud's logic and subsequent exegesis do not affect the question. Commented May 29, 2014 at 15:30
  • @DoubleAA - I'm assuming that all Jews mentioned in Tana"ch followed Torah laws, including kashrut. If so, Shimshon would not have been allowed to eat bee's honey, and he would have known this.
    – DanF
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 15:30
  • 3
    @DanF Why is bee honey prohibited by Torah law?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 15:54
  • 2
    @DanF Actually, G-d said that bee honey is kosher, as pointed out by the Talmud.
    – Ypnypn
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 18:51

2 Answers 2


The Encyclopedia Talmudis has a complete article on bee honey (under dvash) and why it is kosher. As part of the article it shows the difference between bee honey and milk of a nonkosher animal. The honey is carried by "baskets" outside the bee and is processed by "external" processing. That is, it is chewed by the bee, mixed with saliva and regurgitated. It is never digested. Milk on the other hand is considered as if it is derived from the "blood" of the animal. That is by "internal" processing. It is created internally from digested nutrients.

In this particular case, just because the bees set up there hive inside the lion's body does not make the honey considered as if it was part of the lion. The bees and the honey are totally separate objects. If it had been a deer, which had tumas neveilah, then he would not have been able to get to the honey while the deer was tamei. Once the tumah dissipated (after the deer was no longer edible), he could have gotten it. Since a lion is not a kosher animal, it was not tamei and he was able to take the honey. (Besides it was quite a while later).

Note that bee honey is not kosher because of a takkana but was known to be kosher from the beginning. For example the case of Yonasan ben Shaul Hamelech taking some honey during the war with Amalek. The only objection was the oath his father had made. It was well known and accepted that bee honey was kosher. Similarly, we see here that bee honey was kosher. The Talmudic derivation is only to point out how we know this.

  • 1
    As much as you are correct, your example from Yonasan ben Shaul is circular - "I'll show you that Shimshon could eat bee honey, because Yonasan ben Shaul, years later, did!" The question (as asked) would apply equally to that case. Commented May 29, 2014 at 19:51
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    @YEZ The point is that a single case (Shimshon) might be a matter of he made a mistake or it was a riddle that did not require him to eat it. In the later case of Yonasan we see that he ate it in public and there was no fuss about the kashrus and the entire nation accepted that he did not violate anything other than the oath. If the question were asked about Yonasan, the answer would be that everyone (including the Sanhedrin) accepted that he could eat it. Commented May 30, 2014 at 2:59
  • I don't have it before me now but seem to recall that Yonasan's "honey" was actually some kind of sap or sugar or something.
    – msh210
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 8:09
  • @msh210 IIRC The comment in Encyclopedia Talmudis was that the Torah reference to dvash was fruit sap (like date honey) but Yonasan was bee honey. I do not have it here. In Shmuel volume I 14:26 and 27 Radak says bee honey, Rashi says cane sugar, Ralbag says bee honey. Rav Yosef Kara says bee honey. Commented May 30, 2014 at 9:31
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    "Since a lion is not a kosher animal, it was not tamei and he was able to take the honey" - that's not correct. But he was still allowed to take it, he just became tamei by touching the lion. His parents didn't, because mashkin are only metamei miderabbanan (one of the 18 devarim IIRC).
    – Heshy
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 17:42

If you look at the Malbim on the relevant Pessukim in Shoftim Perek 14 Possuk 9 he clearly says there that because Shimshon had decided to take for himself a Pelishti woman for a wife he "stumbled" to also go wrong and eat honey from a Dovor Tomei referring to the lion and then cites the Maamor Chazal that if you are Misaveh for a Dovor Tomei in this case marrying a Pelishti woman it leads you to go wrong and stumble in other ways as well ie eating honey from a Dovor Tomei so the Malbim clearly holds that it was Ossur for Shimshon to eat it.

As an aside to this if you look up the source of the Halocho in Yoreh Deah Siman 81 Seif 8 and 9 and the Tur as well in the same place it appears that none of the Nosei Keilim make any reference at all to the story of Shimshon and his eating of this honey.

  • The Maharsha on Sota 9b states: וז"ש שאיוה לדבר טמא דהיינו לאכילת דבש מתוך גויית נבלת האריה שהוא דבר טמא ": "This is what is [meant by what is] stated [here in the talmud] 'he desired something impure' which is [refers to] the eating of the honey from the body of the lion carcass, which is an impure thing." – GratefulD
    – GratefulD
    Commented Jan 10 at 22:19

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