Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-A.D. 100) was a prominent Jewish historian and soldier born in Jerusalem. Josephus’ historical works are among the most valuable sources for studying early Judaism and Christianity. Having studied the tenets of the three main sects of Judaism- Essenes, Sadducees, and Pharisees. He became a Pharisee himself. At the beginning of the war between the Romans and the Jews, Josephus was made commander of Galilee, even though he had opposed the uprising. When the Romans took the stronghold, he chose surrender over committing suicide. He won the favor of the Roman general Vespasian (Titus Flavius Vespasianus was his full name) and took his name, Flavius.
He resided in Rome under imperial patronage. There, he wrote the Greek-language historical works. His most famous work is The Antiquities of The Jews, which has appeared in different English editions. I use the William Whiston translation from the original Greek, published by David McKay of Philadelphia sometime in the nineteenth century. Nuts and seeds are known to promote longevity both now and throughout ancient history, dating back to biblical times.
Nuts and Seeds Promote Longevity
People before the Flood (known as Antediluvians) lived centuries longer than people did afterward. Josephus attributed it to three basic factors. The first was that “those ancients were beloved of God.” The second reason was “because their food was then fitter for the prolongation of life.” And finally, “God afforded them a longer time of life on account of their virtue.”
Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Egypt, was a contemporary of Josephus. Philo recorded in his Legum Allegoriae, III, that when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden by God for disobedience to divine Law, they were commanded to eat different things of the field. They included a variety of nuts and seeds, intending to minimize but not eliminate their intake of animal flesh.
Both ancient historians thought the Antediluvians could live to such incredible ages because of their almost daily subsistence on nuts and seeds. Various analyses of their nutrient contents show that they are rich in certain trace elements, which are, in fact, the key to keeping the body alive and in a reasonably good state of health for a very long time. Studies with centenarians in different cultures over the last several decades have proven that their longevity can be attributed, in part, to the nuts and seeds they love to snack on.
Almonds In Biblical Times
Almonds, with their rich history and cultural significance, have left their imprint on various civilizations throughout the ages. In biblical times, almonds held a special place, symbolizing divine communication, fertility, and prosperity.
The almond tree, Prunus dulcis, is native to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, making it a familiar presence in the biblical landscape. The Bible references almonds multiple times, with each instance carrying a unique symbolism.
The book of Genesis contains one notable mention. In Genesis 43:11, when Jacob’s sons journey to Egypt during a famine, they carry gifts for the ruler, not knowing that he is their brother Joseph. Among these gifts are “the best products of the land, a little balm, a little honey, spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts, and almonds.” The inclusion of almonds in this list reflects their status as a prized and valuable commodity, fitting for a gift to a high-ranking official.
The book of Numbers emphasizes the significance of almonds. In it, Aaron’s staff miraculously blossoms with almonds, confirming his divinely appointed leadership. This miraculous event symbolizes God’s affirmation of Aaron’s role as the high priest, emphasizing the almond as a symbol of divine approval and communication.
Another Biblical Reference To Almonds
In Jeremiah 1:11-12, the prophet has a vision of an almond branch, with God explaining that He is watching over His word to perform it. The almond tree’s early blossoming, often before other trees, is likely the inspiration for this symbolism. This swift blooming became a metaphor for the quick fulfillment of God’s promises, linking the almond with the idea of God’s faithfulness and the timely execution of His plans.
Beyond symbolism, almonds were also a staple in biblical diets. The nutritional value of almonds, rich in protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients, would have made them a valuable and nourishing food source for ancient communities.
In conclusion, almonds in biblical times were not merely a culinary delight but held deep cultural and symbolic significance. Whether as a precious gift, a miraculous sign, or a nutritious food source, almonds played a multifaceted role in the tapestry of biblical narratives, leaving an enduring mark on the cultural and spiritual landscape of the time.