BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 92
Copyright 1997 Biblical Horizons
Peter’s essay inspires me to write up some similar thoughts about the flower of the field. Rightly does Peter associate the almond with Yahweh’s garden, because the Garden of Eden is symbolically positioned as parallel to the Holy Place of the Tabernacle and Temple. To wit:
|Heaven||Land of Eden||Holy of Holies|
|Firmament||Garden of Eden||Holy Place|
Since Aaron’s rod blossomed with almond flowers and nuts, and the rod symbolized him as a man, the flower on his forehead is symbolically an almond flower (whether made in the shape of one or not). It represented Aaron as "watcher (almond) over Israel."
Aaron’s daily operations were in the Holy Place, the symbolic Firmament, the symbolic Garden. It was in that place that he was to wear his flower-crown. In that place also was the Golden Lampstand, which was made as a symbolic almond tree (Exodus 25:31-39). The flowers of this almond tree, mounted above calyx and bud, were the seven lamps. These "watcher lamps" were positioned to watch over the Table of Showbread, which represented the tribes of Israel (Exodus 25:37).
Aaron’s flowered rod, representing him, was placed in the Holy of Holies; but Aaron himself might not go there (except once a year on the Day of Atonement, and then as a sin-bearer, not as a watchman over Israel). May we say that only a plucked flower, one that has passed through death, is eligible to enter heaven (the Holy of Holies) and remain with God?
We don’t find almond blossoms in the Tabernacle/Temple courtyard. This area represents the field, in contrast to the garden. It is the world, where man operates as servant-king, in contrast to the firmament-garden-temple, where man serves as priest-watchman.
In this area we find the lily. The two great bronze pillars that stood on either side of the Temple doorway were made as gigantic lilies, with stem, calyx, and flower (1 Kings 7:19, 22). Similarly, the Bronze Ocean in the Temple courtyard was made as a gigantic lily blossom (1 Kings 7:26; 2 Chronicles 4:5).
The citizens of Israel, including the Chief Citizen, the King, might come into this courtyard for worship. Only the priests might enter the Holy Place. Thus, the priests were almonds, watchers over Israel; while the citizens themselves were lilies. The priests, being citizens, were also lilies of course.
The Bronze Ocean Lily was closely associated with the people of Israel. It rested on the backs of twelve bronze bulls, representing the tribes of Israel. In 1 Kings 7:26, the word for "lily" is masculine (shoshan), but in 2 Chronicles 4:5 it is in a feminine form (shoshannah [Susanna]), perhaps pointing to the nation as Yahweh’s bride.
The two Bronze Pillar Lilies are associated with the leaders of Israel. One pillar was named Boaz; this was the King’s Pillar, for Boaz was David’s family name. The other was named Jachin, a priestly name. The Hebrew word is always masculine when referring to these lilies. King and High Priest stand side by side guarding the door of Yahweh’s house: the King approaching from the courtyard, while the Priest approaches from inside the Temple and standing as a lily rather than as an almond outside the Temple. (For a full discussion of the pillars and their societal meaning, see my essay Thoughts on Jachin and Boaz, available from Biblical Horizons .)
Jesus almost certainly has these Temple lilies partly in mind when He compares living lilies to Solomon’s glory, because after all, it was Solomon who built the glorious Temple. The lilies are more glorious than Solomon ever was, He says. And then He includes the lilies among the "grass of the field" (Matthew 6:28-30; Luke 12:27-28).
With this in mind, we can go back to Isaiah 40:6-8, which Peter analyzed in his essay. If the "flower" is the priestly almond blossom, the "grass" is the lily of the citizens and their kingly representative. Thus, adding to Peter’s analysis, Israel fades both as grass and flower, both as field and garden, both as priestly nation and as a citizenry, before the breath of God.