Forbidden fruit - the apple...or the pomegranate?
Research takes me to some interesting places. On Twitter I follow Biblical Archeology Review to catch glimpses of new discoveries in the world of biblical archeology and antiquities. Yesterday I saw a link to a 2000 year-old tunnel in Jerusalem that likely hid the Jewish rebels from the Romans when they sacked the city around 33 A.D. That article led to another about a golden bell found in the tunnel, also 2000 years old and possibly worn by a Jewish priest. (Read about it here.) The article referenced Exodus where the garments of the priests are described in greater detail. So I hopped over to Bible Gateway and searched "bell." Here's what I found in Exodus 28:
"Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor. Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests. Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen....Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the LORD and when he comes out, so that he will not die."
Could it be that they have found one of these bells?
While that would be really cool, what struck me about these verses was the pomegranates that are alternated in the design along the hem of the robe. Why pomegranates? Why not figs or dates or apricots or the infamous apple? Was there something significant about the pomegranate?
In his book Herbs of the Bible, James A. Duke, Ph.D, writes "...apples were not indigenous to the Mediterranean during the writing of the Old Testament. The authors of the Bible used fruit generically; the fruit could even have been bitter oranges, pomegranates, or figs!"
So why did God tell Moses to make Aaron's priestly garments with pomegranates along the bottom? It's a curious thought, but a quick search of the passage and another of "pomegranates" in Scripture did not yield any straightforward explanation. God knows, and perhaps someday He will tell us.
But it occurred to me that perhaps the reason had something to do with Aaron's priestly role. He stood as a representative of the people to make atonement for their sins before the Lord. When he entered the Holy Place, the bells tinkled and kept him alive (Exodus 28:35). But I wonder if the pomegranates were also part of the reminder of sin, of why atonement was needed in the first place. Aaron's ephod bore the symbols of each Israelite tribe set in precious stones, one for each tribe. Could the pomegranates have symbolized something further back that Israel's inception? Could the forbidden fruit have been a pomegranate?
Again, according to Duke in Herbs of the Bible, "The apple in the Garden of Eden may have been an apricot or pomegranate or orange or fig...theologians in northern Europe gave the fruit its name (apple) many centuries later." (parenthesis mine)
I'm not saying there is any definitive proof for my conjecture here, but it does make me wonder. Wouldn't it be just like God to include the very fruit that began the fall into sin in the priestly garments, to show that atonement, His true atonement, covers all? Even down to the very fruit that was used in the original temptation of man? Perhaps the apple isn't to blame after all...But then, the fruit really had nothing to do with the motive for eating it...It is only guilty of hanging there and looking good.
But this also raises another thought...Have you ever tried to eat a pomegranate? The seeds of the fruit are delicious, slightly tart, yet sweet. But getting to the seeds is not so easy. The shell of a pomegranate is hard enough that you aren't likely to be able to bite into with your teeth. I use a sharp knife to cut the fruit into four sections, then fold the skin back and pop the seeds into a bowl. The seeds can stain red (perhaps like blood?) and the process is messy. It takes a deliberate effort to eat one.
Hmm...could this be another symbol of the deliberateness of sin? Perhaps when Eve took the fruit and bit into it she had to work to taste it, which could have given her ample time to change her mind...
In the end, Adam and Eve were guilty of disobedience and of wanting to be like God in ways that they were not made to be. Too bad they did not realize that they were already as close to Him as they ever would be on earth, before sin and evil entered their lives, their world, and spoiled the beauty and God-kissed splendor of Eden. But then, given the same choices - pomegranate or apple - would we be any different?