Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Almond Tree: the promise and the beauty, a symbol of resurrection

Most of us aren't farmers. Many of us don't garden. Having lost our connection to the land, sometimes the biblical symbolism of certain agricultural meanings are lost to us. Let's look at the almond tree.

Flowering almond trees, Wiki CC, by Daniel Sancho
The almond tree is mentioned in scripture several times and always in interesting contexts. Almond tree twigs are mentioned as early as Genesis 30:37 and Genesis 43:11. In Exodus 25:33, God is describing how the Golden Lampstand in the Tabernacle should look.

Source

Sweet almond tree branch with blossoms. Wiki CC

three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand.

Calyx is the collective name for sepals of a flower. Easton's Bible Dictionary explains,
"A native of Syria and Palestine. In form, blossoms, and fruit it resembles the peach tree. Its blossoms are of a very pale pink colour, and appear before its leaves. Its Hebrew name, shaked, signifying "wakeful, hastening," is given to it on account of its putting forth its blossoms so early, generally in February, and sometimes even in January"
The International Standard Bible encyclopedia says,
"The masses of almond trees in full bloom in some parts of Palestine make a very beautiful and striking sight. The bloom of some varieties is almost pure white, from a little distance, in other parts the delicate pink, always present at the inner part of the petals, is diffused enough to give a pink blush to the whole blossom."
Did you know that there are sweet almonds and bitter almonds. Bitter almonds are toxic. It becomes cyanide when crushed and mixed with other enzymes inside the almond.
"Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote poetically about the scent of bitter almonds and the fate of unrequited love as a lead-in to murder by cyanide poisoning. And in bitter almond oil as in a tragic romance, the sweet and the toxic are inextricably entangled.
Benzaldehyde is made by the decomposition of amygdalin (named for Prunus amygdalus, and in turn responsible for the bitterness that gives bitter almonds their common name). The other decomposition products are glucose (sweet) and hydrogen cyanide (toxic). ... The utility of amygdalin to the plant is for defense, specifically as a deterrent to grazers from eating the valuable seed as well as the dispensable fruit. Inside the cells of the almond kernel, amygdalin is sequestered from the enzyme that breaks it down: amygdalin hydrolase. Crushing, as happens when the plant is grazed upon, brings the enzyme and amygdalin together, and cyanide is produced as a result–as much as 4-9mg per almond."
Aaron's rod famously budded almond leaves, blossoms, and fully ripe fruit. The LORD did this to prove that Aaron was His designated spokesman, with Moses.

On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. (Numbers 17:8)

As with Aaron's rod, Jeremiah 1:11 use of the almond as a symbol. Jeremiah 1:11-12:

"And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.

Pulpit Commentary says of Verse 12. - I will hasten my word; literally, I am wakeful over my word; alluding to the meaning of the Hebrew word for almond. The LORD will hasten to perform His judgments of Jerusalem which He proclaimed in His word to Jeremiah.

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 'Love in the Time of Cholera”.

In Genesis 43:11 one of the 'best gifts' of the land that Joseph's father Jacob urged his sons to bring to Egypt (unknowingly, to Joseph) were almonds.

In Plants of the Bible, it says, "The almond, Amygdalus communis, is a medium sized tree with narrow, light green leaves. Unlike the fig and olive, the almond does not live to a great age. The almond is a well-known symbol of resurrection because it is the first tree to flower. The white, five-parted flowers are up to two inches across and come in the late winter before the leaves of the tree develop. Because they may flower as early as late January or early February, it is sometimes possible to find almond flowers with snow."

Charles Spurgeon preached on the lessons of the Almond Tree. He says here,
"While I have felt compelled to speak of these solemn Truths, I am glad to turn to the other part of the subject which is this—that God is quick in performing His promises. They are like the almond tree—they blossom and bear fruit very quickly. “What sort of promises,” you ask, “are thus speedily fulfilled?” Well, first, the promise to give salvation to all these who believe in the Lo rd Jesus Christ. Listen— “The moment a sinner believes, And trusts in his crucified God, His pardon at once he receives, Redemption in full thro’ His blood.” I see “a branch of an almond tree” here. The Psalmist says, “His word runs very swiftly,” and I am a witness that it does. Many years ago, I, a poor sinner, went into a place of worship to hear the Gospel preached. The preacher repeated the Lord’s command, “Look unto Me, and be you saved.” I looked to Christ and I was saved that very instant. It takes no longer to tell the story than it did to work the miracle of mercy. Swift as a lightning flash I looked to Christ, and the great deed was done! I was a pardoned and justified soul—in a word, I was saved! Why should not the same thing happen to you who are here? It will happen to everyone who shall now be led to believe in Jesus Christ."

On this most joyous of days, you who wonder at our joy, it is because we looked to Christ as our all in all, forgiver of sins, Lamb of God. You, also, look to Christ - and be saved. The almond tree blooms, quick with promises. The most wondrous promise of all is the resurrection of the Son of God.
Aaron's rod budded, sprouted, and offered fully formed fruit, all at the same time. "According to the law of nature, all living things have a beginning and an end. However, this was not the case with Aaron’s rod, for God gave it a new lease of life. This miracle hinted at the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even though death came to the world because of the actions of the first man, Adam, resurrection would come about on account of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:17–22). Hence, when Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Jn 11:25). ... the flowering rod served to quell Korah’s rebellion and re-affirmed Aaron’s position as high priest. Furthermore, this wondrous sign hinted at the future Messiah and His status as the firstfruits of resurrection (1 Cor 15:20)." (source)

He is risen!

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Further Reading

The Sign of the Almond Tree

The Lesson of the Almond Tree

Daily Bible Study: Almonds


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