By Elizabeth Prata
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.” (Jeremiah 1:11-12).
I don’t know anything of an almond branch. Is it wise to further pursue what its properties are and why God may have chosen this tree to show Jeremiah in his first vision? Yes.
God’s first confirming vision caused Jeremiah to see the branch of an almond tree. The Hebrew word for “almond tree” is šāqēḏ, from the word “to watch or to wake”. The almond tree was named the “awake tree” because in Palestine it is the first tree in the year to bud and bear fruit. Its blooms precede its leaves, as the tree bursts into blossom in late January.
Jeremiah 1:12. The branch represented God who was watching to see that His word is fulfilled. God used a play on words to associate the almond branch with His activity. The word for “watching” is šōqēḏ, related to the Hebrew noun for “almond tree.” Jeremiah’s vision of the “awake tree” reminded him that God was awake and watching over His word to make sure it came to pass.
Source: Jeremiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures.
I love the agricultural metaphors in the Bible. I don’t always understand them, not being familiar with the trees, plants, or foods of that time and place. But a commentaries help here. Dismiss other people’s charges that reading a commentary or Bible encyclopedia to enhance one’s understanding is “cheating.” It certainly is not. God raised up wise men who wrote these things for our edification. Rely on scripture first, of course, but also handy tools like these I’ve mentioned help bring nuance and depth to a passage.
Knowing the almond tree blooms first and produces its fruit before the leaves even grow, makes the point.
Here is more on the almond tree metaphor:
The almond tree is mentioned in Eccl 12:5, where in the description of old age it says “the almond-tree shall blossom.” The reference is probably to the white hair of age. An almond tree in full bloom upon a distant hillside has a certain likeness to a head of white hair.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 100).
The Lampstand described in Exodus is adorned with almond blossoms. Of course, Numbers 17 records the miracle of Aaron’s rod, which blossomed with almond fruit and blooms overnight.
How beautiful the hills must have been with the whitish-pink blooms adorning them. I remember being entranced by the silvery leaves of the olive groves sparkling on the Tuscan hills, the almond blooms must have made a similarly striking sight.
When the Lord regenerates our heart and the scales fall from our eyes, it is like we are suddenly awake, isn’t it? As we read, the illumination of His word comes to our mind all at once, blooming gems of insight bursting out before even the leaves appear. We are awake! Then the long seasons begin to cycle through, and we grow and grow in sanctification. I pray that as we grow, our blossoms of knowledge of Him appear as striking to others as the white blooms of the almond tree appear on the hillsides.