What does this sentence below mean?

He never had a chance in the land of milk and honey.

I took the sentence from someone's comment, so there's no context. I've tried to search on Google, but there are just some random irrelevant articles. Is it a proverb?

  • 1
    Without more context it's anybody's guess exactly what the cited text is supposed to imply. Perhaps he's a strict vegan, and it's a cynical observation about the fact that even though this modern world is full of good things for others to enjoy, he personally can't indulge himself in such things. Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 13:12
  • We MUST have more context. Surely the person who wrote this did not drop by and randomly write this sentence on your Facebook wall, for example. Who is "he"? Where is "he"? Is there any kind of location that might be (poetically or otherwise) described "the land of milk and honey"? Was there any other content in the comment? You can see how those would be helpful things to know, and without them we cannot tell you for sure what the comment means.
    – randomhead
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 21:12
  • @randomhead sorry to disappoint you, but there's no context. Someone was just posting a meme (It's inappropriate to discuss here) and he commented like that. I don't think I should provide more detail on this. I mean, I was just asking is it a proverb and what does it mean. If it does, it can have several meanings right? If people answer differently, don't I learn more? I have seen 2 or three questions though they are quite different and are not specific, they still got answered and there's no problem either. Also, it helps people to know the other possible meanings.
    – user516076
    Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 0:18
  • This is not a "proverb" that people often say, it is a specific thing that a specific person said—referring to a specific meme. "Appropriate" or not, that meme is the context. If you do not show it or describe it to us we cannot tell you exactly what the comment means.
    – randomhead
    Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 1:03
  • @randomhead well, then. You should add your own answer to clarify this. Without that, a stupid learner like me never understand. :) My main question is clarifying whether it's a proverb or not, secondly I need to know the meaning of this sentence without context which might have several meanings and I will learn more when kind people would give the other possible meanings. I haven't seen someone should have an issue with this before.
    – user516076
    Commented Feb 17, 2022 at 5:42

3 Answers 3


"[In the] land of milk and honey" is an established phrase which can be found in many dictionaries.

From Merriam Webster:

land of milk and honey

noun phrase

: a place where there is plenty of food and money and life is very easy
// Many immigrants thought that America was a land of milk and honey.

From The Free Dictionary:

land of milk and honey

A place of abundance that is free from want. The phrase comes from the Biblical description of the land promised to the Israelites.

It might be better than where you came from, but don't think this is some utopia or land of milk and honey—we still have to work for what we have.

  • So, is it something like: he never had a chance to have an easy life.
    – user516076
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 11:52
  • 1
    @user516076 I must second Robbie's comment. If the sentence was "He never had a chance to be in [or live in] the land of milk and honey" then your interpretation would be correct. As it stands, the meaning could just as easily be "The odds were against him; also, he lived an easy life." Really it is impossible to say without more context.
    – randomhead
    Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 21:09
  • Justin; User516076 The comment did have a context, unless it was the entire thread. Which, please? What shows that phrase meant: "he never had a chance to have an easy life"? That meaning would need a chance "at…" not "in…" Combining the two might give a chance "of getting into…" and that's different. Unbless "He never had a chance in…" is a mistake, it means "he could not cope in…" Broadly, when Google searches fail, doesn't that tell us the idea was unfounded? Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 21:17

The phrase "the land of milk and honey" traces back to the bible. In the Old Testament, God makes a promise to give some land to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 15:18-21):

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."

This land is called the Promised Land (which became a phrase in its own right) or, in other verses, "the land of milk and honey", "the land where milk and honey flow" or similar:

(...) and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

(Exodus 3:8, emphasis mine)

If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey.

(Numeri 14:8, emphasis mine)

For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant.

(Deuteronomium 31:20, emphasis mine)

Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land that I had given them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands (...)

(Ezechiel 20:15, emphasis mine)

"Milk and honey" are usually seen as refering to the fertility of the soil, which is very important to an agranian society. Today, the phrase is often used with little or no biblical or religious context. It typically refers to a land where a person isn't at the moment, but they hope to get there one day. Once they get there, everything will be better, all the hardships and the scarcity will be over, there will be plenty for everybody. It's more a land one yearns for than an actual reality.

The concept is similar (but not identical) to Paradise or Cockaigne (also known as Schlaraffenland, Luilekkerland, Paese della Cuccagna).

But as we all know, there is no land where milk and honey flow, there is no place where everything is easy and there are no hardships or setbacks. And in your quote, the person described had to learn that too:

He never had a chance in the land of milk and honey.

meaning "he went to what he thought to be the land of milk and honey, but he never had a chance there (and subsequently didn't make it there)".

  • Everything you said could be true and still, you'd be mixing different citations to no clear purpose. Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 21:24

In addition to the definition provided by Justin, "Land of milk and honey" can often be interpreted as referring to something wherein expectation exceeds reality.

The origin is Biblical and occurs in several places in the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy and Numbers – e.g. Moses uses it to describe the destination that he's leading the Hebrew slaves to (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus%203%3A8&version=NIV)

  • Not alone, it can't. To refer to something wherein expectation exceeds reality you'd need to use the longer, more meaningful phrase: "That's like/ you seem to be living in the land of milk and honey." Does the difference make sense? Commented Feb 16, 2022 at 21:27

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