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THE TREES OF THE BIBLE.
NO. I. THE ALMOND TREE.
BY THE EDITOR.
[In the last number of The Guardian we closed our series of sketches on the Birds of the Bible. We found both pleasure and profit in preparing them, as it led us into the study of the scriptures amid rural scenes. The Bible is a true Paradise of joys and delights when studied within doors; but, some portions of it at least, seem to assume new freshness and beauty when we transfer ourselves into the midst of that rural world which brings those interesting objects of Natural History, to which it so frequently alludes, in their living forms around Those holy men of old, who recorded the Scriptures, lived and moved much of their time in the rural world. They were, many of them at least, husbandmen and shepherds. The Saviour himself, as well as the Apostles, taught much out of doors; and in many instances their allusions to objects of nature were suggested by what their eyes saw at the time before them. It is quite natural, therefore, that the study of their writings should possess new freshness when we look upon them from the same point of view.
It must be remembered, too, that the Scriptures were written in a distant part of the world from us, in a climate the productions of which are, in many respects, quite different from those familiar to us. This makes it necessary for us to transfer ourselves into a rural world different from our own, in order to be fully at home in the varied allusions of Holy Writ.
Then, too, these objects of Scripture natural history must not be brought to us in dry descriptions, so as to appear before us as the dead skeletons of a cabinet; but, as far as may be done, livingly ornate. This cannot be done, or at least it is not done, in any of the systematic treatises on the natural history of the Bible. We have attempted this in our former series on the Birds, and shall aim at the same thing in this on the Trees.
It must not be regarded immodest in us when we say that many assurances have been given us that the series on the Birds were well received by our readers. Before they were finished we received a request from Lindsay & Blakiston, publishers, in Philadelphia, to prepare them for publication in book form. They were accordingly carefully re-written, somewhat enlarged and improved, and have been so published, with some dozen beautiful colored embellishments of the Birds, such as the dove, swan, stork, eagle, quail, partridge, sparrow, peacock, pelican, ostrich, and swallow. In this form the matter, which the readers of The Guardian received for $1, is now sold in its present beautiful dress for $5 and $7, according to the binding. The conception and general manner of treating the subject has been approved by the religious papers which have noticed the book.
Having this kind of encouragement, and the approbation of our readers, we cheerfully proceed still farther to cultivate this field of sacred inquiry. We ask, therefore, that our kind friends of The Guardian follow us pleasantly for another year, while we lead them over the hills and vallies which once were trod by the blessed feet of the Prophets and our adored Saviour, and show them the Trees of the Bible.
It is our design to treat in this series, also, the Plants and their Flowers; but we wish to accommodate our subjects somewhat to the seasons of the year. The bleak winter, which now knocks at our doors, and which, with its vegetation retired to the bosom of the earth, and its snows crowning the hills and mountains, suggests to us to begin with-]
THE ALMOND TREE.
"Mark well the flowing almonds in the wood:
Great heats will follow, and large crops of grain."
THE Almond Tree is several times mentioned in the Scriptures.
It is a very beautiful tree, resembling very much the peach in its leaves and blossoms, but is larger in size. It abounds in the Holy Land. It is also, at the present day, cultivated in England for its beauty, and in the south of Europe for its fruits.
The fruit which it bears is enclosed in a tough shell, and this again in a horny husk, which, like our chestnut and hickory-nut, opens of itself when the fruit is ripe. The almond was regarded as among the fruit that Canaan produced. It is a favorite nut in all lands. It is said that four hundred and fifty tons are imported into England every year, on which the duty alone amounts to the extraordinary sum of $80,000. It appears among the desserts of of most of our best American hotels, and is a great favorite among children.
Among our earliest and pleasantest recollections is the semiannual visit of our white-haired and venerable grandfather, with a paper of raisins in one pocket and a paper of almonds in the other. Sometimes, too, there were dates. By the way, I wonder whether it was designedly that he always made his presents to his grandchildren in fruits that are the native products of Canaan. We would regard the matter of sufficient importance to address to him a letter of inquiry on the subject, but he has long since gone to the peaceful bosom of the grave! Whether this idea was in his mind or not, I will take a hint from it. It is this: the very next Christmas-tree that is made for my children and friends, shall have a little round heap of almonds at its base, and a little bag of them hanging on one of its branches. Besides this, it shall be richly overhung with bunches of raisins, figs and dates; and as many kinds of Canaan fruits as I can find. This is a fancy of my own, and it shall be done. Then I will call them around it, and tell them all I can learn of these fruits from the Bible.
Perhaps my grandfather knew that among the presents which aged Israel directed his sons to carry to the King of Egypt, to induce him to be friendly to them, there were also almonds. (Gen. 43, 11.)
The word SHAKAD, which denotes this tree, is derived from a root which signifies to make haste, to awake early, to watch. This name was suggested from its nature. It is of hasty growth, it is the first tree that feels the genial warmth of the sun in springtime, and is first covered with a beautiful crown of flowers, thus awaking to bloom and beauty while all other trees are yet slumbering in the benumbing embraces of winter. In Canaan it flowers as early as January, and so speedy is its development, that its fruit is already ripe in the latter part of March.
This forwardness and haste of the almond tree in bringing to perfection its fruit, explains the allusion which the Prophet Jeremiah makes to it, (Jer. 1, 11:) "Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. Then said the Lord unto me, Thou
hast well seen; for I will hasten my word to perform it." Thus the Lord himself gives an exposition of his design, in showing to the prophet in a vision an almond rod. "This is the first vision with which the prophet was honored; and his attention is aroused by a very significant emblem of that severe correction with which the Most High was hastening to visit his people for their iniquity." The rod indicates that the punishment will be severe; and the kind of tree from which it is taken shadows forth that the judgments are drawing near, and will speedily come upon them.
It is no doubt on account of the same natural significance that the mystic rod of Aaron was of the almond tree. (Num. 17, 8.) It is likely that the rods of the twelve princes, which are mentioned in the same connection, and which lay with that of Aaron, were of the same tree. This indicated to them that they were to be watchful and quick in their duties. Their influence among the people should be prominent, full of promise, early in fruitfulness, like the almond tree among the other trees.
The rod of Aaron which "budded, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds" in one night, we are told was "for the house of Levi." It is a beautiful emblem of the influence which this tribe of priests should exercise among the other tribes. They should have authority; this was indicated by the rod. They should watch the spiritual interests of Israel, and in this they should be quick and active. They should be the flower and the fruit of the tribes, for the sceptre of Aaron "bloomed blossoms, and brought forth almonds." Some have supposed that the almond rod of Aaron, which, though withered and dead, was made in a short time, by the miraculous power of God, to bud, blossom, and bear fruit, is emblematic of the great High Priest, who, though crucified, dead and buried, was the first to rise from the grave, the first bloom of hope from the rigorous winter of death, the first-fruits of an immortal life.
The bowls of the golden candlesticks, which Moses was directed to have made for the tabernacle, were to be "made like unto almonds, with a knob and a flower in each branch." (Ex. 25, 53.) These candlesticks were the emblems of the light of truth in the tabernacle; they were the watchers of the purity of the ceremonial worship, and were, therefore, appropriately shaped like the almond-flower, which appears early and beautiful, the first to represent, in bloom and fruit, the warmth and vigor of the great light of heaven.
The almond tree, with its crown of snow-white flowers, is made by Solomon a most beautiful emblem of old age. He calls upon the young to remember their Creator in the days of their youth, before the evil days shall come, when the limbs of the body and the faculties of the mind shall bow under the weight of age, and the hoary head, like an "almond tree shall flourish" with the
blossoms of the grave. Eccl. 12, 5. The emblem is appropriate and touching. The almond blossoms bloom out of the bare branches, before any leaves appear; so the crowning flower of life, upon the head of age, blooms out of the remains of departed freshness and vigor.
"The hope, in dreams of a happier hour,
Look over the landscape of Canaan; solitary and alone, on the plain and along the distant hill, is seen the white crown of the almond tree. So, when you cast your eyes over the community, or over a congregation of people, appears the venerable head of the aged. This crown is an honorable distinction, if there is purity beneath it. "The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness." Like a flower which precedes the fruit, it is a prophecy and promise of "the fruits of righteousness, which are quietness and assurance forever." It is like the robes of the sainted in heaven; and indicates a speedy transfer of those that are worthy, into that happy land. It is the earliest sign of the near approach of eternal spring.
LEARN ALL YOU CAN..
NEVER omit an opportunity to learn all you can. Sir Walter Scott said that even in a stage coach he always found somebody who could tell him something he did not know before. Conversation is frequently more useful than books for purposes of knowledge. It is, therefore, a mistake to be morose and silent among persons whom you think ignorant, for a little sociability on your part will draw them out, and they will be able to teach you something, no matter how ordinary their employment.
Indeed, some of the most sagacious remarks are made by persons of this description, respecting their particular pursuit. Hugh Miller, the Scotch geologist, owes not a little of his fame to observations made when he was a journeyman stone-mason and working in a quarry. Socrates well said that there was but one good, which is knowledge, and one evil, which is ignorance. Every grain of sand goes to make a heap. A gold digger takes the smallest nuggets, and is not fool enough to throw them away, because he hopes to find a huge lump some time. So in acquiring knowledge, we should never despise an opportunity, however unpromising. If there is a moment's leisure, spend it over a good or instructive talking with the first you meet.