We often think about the promised land as the land flowing with milk and honey, but have you ever thought about the fruits of the land?
Today I want to take a closer look at the fruits of the promised land. Not just any of the fruits, but the ones mentioned in Numbers 13:23 where we read how the spies went into the land and brought the fruit that was present on the land as a testimonial to the children of Israel.
This event was so pivotal that Israel ended up staying in the wilderness 40 years because of their unbelief during this event.
The spies brought a giant cluster of grapes held between two people on a pole. Then it says; they also brought pomegranates and figs.
It’s easy to remember the giant cluster of grapes because even the place was called Eschol which means “cluster of grapes”. However, it’s interesting to note how it goes on to say; “they also brought pomegranate and figs”. As if this was an after the fact ordeal. Like Mum and Dad had grapes the first born, then they had pomegranate the second child, and figs the last born.
I like to refer to the promised land with the allegory of if Milk was Dad, and Honey was mum, these fruits are the kids 😁.
Think about it for a second. How many times does the Bible talk about bearing fruits? countless times. We have verses like; “Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance” Matthew 3:8. “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” John 15:8. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” John 15:16. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” Proverbs 18:21. “ And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” Ephesians 5:11
These verses go on and on. So Let’s look at each of these fruits on their own.
Fruit #1 Grapes: Big brother grape is the main dude. I mean even the valley (or brook) of Eschol is named after him. But what does the Bible say about this fruit? First scripture that comes to mind is “I am the vine, ye are the branches” John 15:5. Now you might say; there are other vine fruits like the berries, tomatoes or kiwi etc. why do you think this is about grapes right? but you need to think about the context where Jesus is speaking about the vine. This verse is one of a long discuss where Christ is admonishing his disciples to bear fruit in keeping with showing that they are truly his disciples. The discussion is happening around Passover, and Jesus tells his disciples regarding the wine (fruit of the vine); “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”. And that he wouldn’t drink it again till he drank it anew in his father’s kingdom.
Oh what a delight to know he is indeed the big brother. The first born. The true fruit of the vine 😁
Fruit #2: Pomegranates. This fruit is unique. It’s the only fruit the Priests bore on their clothing. Exodus 39:24-26 “They made pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen around the hem of the robe. And they made bells of pure gold and attached them around the hem between the pomegranates. The bells and pomegranates alternated around the hem of the robe to be worn for ministering, as the Lord commanded Moses”
Pomegranate are bright red and you can easily mistake it’s juice for blood. It’s fascinating that it symbolizes the priesthood. If we think about Jesus as our new high priest in the order of Melchizedek, you begin to see a lot of the remarkable features in this fruit.
Modern Judaism sees the Pomegranate as the law (Torah) or a symbol of righteousness, wisdom, and knowledge because there are 613 mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah, and the pomegranate has 613 seeds (Not sure if anyone took painstaking efforts to count them, but hey, there you have it 🤷🏾♀️).
What’s fascinating to me about the fruit is that it has that many seeds on the inside. If you think about the parable of the sower who went to sow his seeds, you can think of this guy as the sower with a LOT of seeds to sow. His unique nature is the volume of seeds he carries, isn’t that remarkably fitting for the role of a priest? The ability to disseminate God’s word (seeds). It’s no wonder he says “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” 1 Peter 2:9
A really curious story to me is how we see Saul and his entourage sitting under the pomegranate tree in 1 Samuel 14:2-3
“Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left.”
In this story, we see King Saul, the priests, and the king’s men all sitting under the pomegranate tree seemingly waiting on instructions from God (I guess), but Jonathan, Saul’s son, left them (ie left sitting under the pomegranate tree) and acted in faith. I mean did he receive a different set of instructions or a different spirit while they were all waiting underneath the pomegranate tree???
Fruit #3: Figs – I feel like little brother fig has had a bad rap almost all his life. I mean right from the garden of Eden days when Papa Adam and mama Eve decided to sow fig leaves to cover their nakedness in Genesis 3:7 to the days of Jesus where he curses the fig tree in mark 11:12-14.
Now, does Jesus curse the tree because it’s bad? No. If anything this tree is a prime example of what it means to be ready and available. To see the reasons for this tree’s predicament, you need to understand how the fig tree functions.
The fig tree is a very prolific tree. I.e it bears a lot of fruits, and would usually flaunt it’s leaves first (and early) to show that it’s coming into season. This fruit symbolizes abundance in Hebraic thought. 1 kings 4:25 says “During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree”. The songs of Solomon likens or equates the time of love to when the fig tree puts out it’s early figs. Jesus also tells his disciples to learn a lesson from the tree; “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near” Luke 21:29 – 31
Given the tree’s prolific nature, Jesus is upset because it didn’t do its job early enough.
Jesus also tells the parable of the unfruitful fig tree in Luke 13:6-9; “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
A good thing to remind ourselves of about this parable is that according to the law, when you plant a tree in the land, you’re not to eat it’s fruit for 3 years. The fourth year is offered up to God, and the fifth year is when the planter gets to eat the fruit. Leviticus 19:23-25:
“’When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the LORD your God”
The man in this parable expects the fig tree to produce even when he won’t be eating its fruit.
Another notable reference to the fig tree is Jesus’s conversation with Nathaniel after Philip calls him to come see the messiah. Notice how Nathaniel responds to Jesus after Jesus tells him “I saw you under the fig tree”: John 1:47-57
“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
It’s like being under the fig tree is some sort of hidden code between them. Nathaniel suddenly believes that this is the true messiah because he had known he was under the fig tree.
No other fruit in the holy land has more symbolism than the fig. This fruit is truly the teacher of all fruits
At the beginning of this post we mentioned John the Baptist’s statement “Therefore produce fruits consistent with repentance”, but what does the idea of producing fruit mean to you? What does it mean to sit under the tree? Better yet, which of these fruits do you see yourself bearing?
Bear fruits consistent with “keeping with Christ” is what I would say. Rest in his completed work. Just as his word says in John 15:4 – “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”
The promised land and the fruits of the land was literal for the sons of Israel over 3 thousand years. Today, those promises still stand in our lives as spiritual sons of Israel. Let us learn to bear fruits consistent with keeping with Christ our promised land.
He is our firm foundation. The solid rock upon which we stand, and as apostle Paul puts it “For all the promises of God are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him, our “Amen” is spoken to the glory of God” (1 Cor 1:20)