Busy as a Bee this Christmas Time, Is This Quote in the Bible?

It seems like forever since my last post, you see with Christmas coming, I’ve been busy as a bee.

“I am as busy as a bee.” – Bible or Not?

The Bible does teach us to consider the ways of the ant and be wise – the ant is hard working and thus able to provide for the needs of its colony. But we don’t read about the busyness of bees in the Bible, even though they are quite busy and make a good analogy of those who are running around this Christmas season.

The origin of the quote “busy as bees” comes from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and in particular, The Merchant’s Tale. The quote is a reference to women and it is not flattering in the least.

“Behold what tricks, and lo, what subtleties
In women are. For always busy as bees
Are they, us simple men thus to deceive”
 – Excerpt from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, The Merchant’s Tale

The merchant in The Cantebury tales was not very pleased with his choice of a wife and this is reflected in the diatribe against such women. In the Bible we read about such women as busybodies, but we also read about the women who are Godly and worthy of honor. Following are the passages from Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale (The Merchant’s Epilogue), in the original Middle English and then in Modern English.

The Canterbury Tales (Middle English), The Merchant’s Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer, written 1386-1400:

Ey! Goddes mercy!” sayd our Hoste tho,
Now such a wyf I pray God keep me fro.
Lo, suche sleightes and subtilitees
In wommen be; for ay as busy as bees
Be thay us seely men for to desceyve,
And from a soth ever a lie thay weyve.
And by this Marchaundes tale it proveth wel.

The Canterbury Tales (Modern English), The Merchant’s Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer, written 1386-1400:

Eh! By God’s mercy!” cried our host. Said he:
“Now such a wife I pray God keep from me!
Behold what tricks, and lo, what subtleties
In women are. For always busy as bees
Are they, us simple men thus to deceive,
And from the truth they turn aside and leave;
By this same merchant’s tale it’s proved, I feel,
But, beyond doubt, as true as any steel

So, although being busy as a bee was originally used to describe undesirable character traits, today we use it to describe people who are active and industrious.


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