Pomegranates and Honeycombs

by Impact Church

“And Saul tarried…under a pomegranate tree,… But Jonathan…put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.” (1 Samuel 14:2, 27)

The ancient land of Palestine in Old Testament days apparently was filled with pomegranates and honeycombs. Prominently mentioned again and again in Scripture, these natural products are rich in symbolism and meaning.

Images of the pomegranate, a reddish-brown fruit resembling an apple, were featured on the hem of the high priest’s robe and adorned the tops of the pillars in Solomon’s temple. It was a symbol of fertility, life and abundance — probably because of what was on the inside. You see, a pomegranate is known more for 600-plus seeds typically found concealed in its core. Its very name means “seeded apple,” while the Hebrew word comes from a verb meaning “to rise up.”

Interestingly, Israeli soldiers use the fruit’s name as slang for a hand grenade (since it sounds like “palm” + “grenade,” perhaps),…but maybe because its real power is in what it possesses inside!

One thing is for certain,…pomegranate bushes were not meant to be shade trees. Yet, we find King Saul in 1 Samuel 14 cowering from his Philistine enemies under such a tree. Instead of “rising up,” Saul — a type of dead, fleshly religion and faithless works — is not tapping into the abundant life and promise to which he has access. He is portrayed as sitting under a “seed tree,” full of the power and life-giving potential of the Word of God, but not doing anything with it.

By contrast, his son Jonathan in this chapter steps out in faith with only his armor-bearer at his side and confronts the heavily fortified and well-armed enemy with an inspired attitude of “it may be that the Lord will work for us” (verse 6). In other words, why don’t we make the first move and give God something with which to work! Our God honors that kind of faith, and the chapter details a miraculous victory for His people that day!

Jonathan is later said to have such a loyal connection to David that their souls were knit together (18:1). David, of course, was the shepherd-boy-turned-giant-slayer-and-mighty-warrior who would become Saul’s replacement as the second king of Israel. Since David was declared by Samuel the prophet as a man after God’s own heart (13:14), we can rightly discern that Jonathan must have shared that kind of heart. He is contrasted with his father, Saul, in Scripture as a type of bold faith, self-sacrifice and fierce devotion.

The rest of Chapter 14 bears out the colliding worlds of flesh and faith as prideful, self-centered Saul issues a rash order when the Philistines were on the run. For a commander-in-chief who showed such promise when he was anointed king of God’s people, Saul now cared only about his reputation and getting vengeance against his enemies, so he forbade his soldiers from eating any food until that evening as they chased the Philistines (14:24).

Since faith-filled Jonathan was already on the front lines and did not hear his father’s order, he came across some honey in the heat of battle and refreshed his energy with its natural sweetness. When told of Saul’s foolish fast, the man who would never be king spared no words in criticizing how his father had troubled the army and kept the nation from gaining an even bigger victory over the enemy that day (14:29-30).

Honey in the Bible is symbolic of pleasantness, celebration and delight, especially in knowing the truth of God’s Word and in spiritual matters. Both Psalms 19 and 119 speak of the Scriptures as being “sweeter than honey.” The Lord’s heaven-sent provision of manna for His wandering people was said to taste like a cake kneaded with honey. The Promised Land flowed with milk and honey! Even John the Baptist made a diet of locusts and wild honey,…indeed, he delighted in the Word made flesh!

So what’s the point? Well, there are many lessons in this wonderful account in 1 Samuel 14, but here’s a few that shouldn’t be missed:

Take time to tap into the abundant, life-giving power and sweetness of the Word of God! Be bold and daring in your faith,…give God something with which to work! And stop to taste the honey — delight and celebrate the sweetness of even the small victories God gives in your life! Amen!