Both the Scriptures and the Creation are cohesive in their revelation of God’s Nature and His plans for us in the Messiah. As we search things out, the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truth in our spirits and gives revelation to see more than what is seen naturally. Jesus disclosed to the Disciples after teaching them about the kingdom, “…every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (spiritual as well as natural)
The almond tree plays an important role in the symbolism developed throughout the Scriptures from Aaron’s rod that budded, to the Menorah in the Tabernacle, to the almond branch seen by Jeremiah. Each of these accounts shows us the workings of YHWH to bring forth His plan. Before we look at the pictures provided for us in the Hebrew Scriptures, we will examine the almond tree itself.
The Almond Tree: the Wakening/Watching Tree
The almond tree is in the genus prunus just like the cherry, nectarine, peach, apricot and plum. These are all called stone fruits since they have stone-sized hard pits. The almond is in the same subgenus as the peach sharing the same type of corrugated shell around the seed. Native to the Mediterranean countries, it thrives in areas of mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. California also has the perfect Mediterranean weather for growing almonds.
The Hebrew word for almond tree is the masculine noun – shaqed שקד, which comes from the verb – shaqad: to wake, watch, awake, be alert; to keep watch of, be wakeful over. A literal translation to English would be “awakening or watching” tree.
The almond tree got its name in Hebrew from the fact that it is the first of the trees to “awaken” from the winter sleep/dormancy. The flowering of the almond tree in Israel happens around the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat (15th of Shevat – Jan/Feb), the New Year of the Trees. Not only is it the first tree to waken in the late winter/early spring, but the leafless branches burst forth into light pink, five-petal blossoms quite suddenly after the buds develop.
The almond tree watches for the first signs of the changing seasons and heralds the fruitfulness of the coming year. In this sense, it is symbolic of our watching for the LORD and waking to His touch. The Scriptures have many verses that carry the same thought of watching and awakening. These are just a few:
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. (Pro 8:34)
I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. (SS 5:2)
Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. (Is 52:1)
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (Matt 25:13)
For this reason it says, Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. (Ep 5:14)
After blooming, the almond has two periods of ripening. It is edible together with its rind a few weeks after the tree blooms, while the fruit is still green.
This quick ripening is the reason it is also known as the “hasty tree” in Israel. I will talk about this more while looking at the Almond branch seen by Jeremiah.
The second ripening happens during the hot and dry summer months. Unlike the peach whose drupe/flesh ripens into a large juicy fruit, the almond drupe shrivels and the inside cover becomes a hard shell around the seed/nut. From the first blossoms to the ripe almond is around 7 months.
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)
The Sweet Almond and the Bitter Almond
Two forms of the tree exist with one producing edible sweet almonds and the other giving poisonous bitter almonds. Sweet almonds have a fixed oil and emulsion, but the bitter almonds also yield the deadly hydrogen cyanide.
Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt 12:33-37)
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Pro 18:21)
Both forms of the almond tree have a profusion of flowers: light pink to white on the sweet almond and a deeper pink on the bitter almond.
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Is 1:18)
Even before the non-toxic domesticated forms of the tree were developed, the bitter almonds were put through a leaching or roasting process to make them edible. At one time we were “separated from the Life of God”, and all of our words and actions flowed from the corrupted desires of the flesh. When we are born anew from above by the Holy Spirit, our dead spirit is made alive in Jesus/Yeshua, and now we have Divine Life flowing into us that cleanses the hidden man of the heart.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)
Though the natural man produces bitter almonds, the Lord has promised to put us through a leaching process of “washing in the water of the Word” and a roasting process of “baptism in fire” to produce a sweet fruit in our soul from the Sweet Almond residing in our spirit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. (John 15:3)
…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Eph 5:25-27)
As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matt 3:11)
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (1Pet 1:6-9)
One of the Best Fruits of the Land
The first mention of the almond in Scripture is when Jacob sent his sons down to Egypt to buy grain during the famine.
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man (Joseph) as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. (Gen 43:11)
The domesticated forms of the tree produce non-toxic nuts that are rich in minerals, vitamin E, fiber and protein. The almond is around 50% oil composed of mono and poly unsaturated fats that help regulate blood cholesterol levels by raising HDL and lowering LDL. The oil is very stable and does not go rancid like olive oil, so it and the nuts themselves can be stored indefinitely.
Though grafting is used in the almond industry today, in Biblical times the almond could be propagated easily from the seed/nut. As we become the “planting of the Lord,” we undergo our Father’s process of domestication with pruning and discipline conforming us to the “image of His Son.”
The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits. Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. (2Tim 2:6-7)
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. (Jam 5:7)
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:1-10)
Almond trees begin bearing fruit by 3-4 years and come into full production around 7 years. With proper care, they will produce fruit well over 50 years.
Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. (Ps 92:13-15)
Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor. The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.” (Is 60:21-22)