Fruit and Nuts-Two Synagogues

The two synagogues in question are in Thessalonica (nuts) and Berea (fruit). Paul traveled to these synagogues during his second missionary trip. It is interesting that Paul did not write a letter to the Berean church (that we know of). Maybe they just continued to produce good fruit.

A Little History

Synagogues are a product of the Pharisees. They came into being during the inter-testament period, and play a major role, in the life of Jews, after the Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D. Acts 17:2 states that it was Paul’s custom to go to the synagogues first when entering a city. I take the habit to stem from the thought of Jew first and then the Gentile. Preaching to Gentiles was not a problem, as this is part of the mystery of the Kingdom. Part of the offerings during Pentecost were two loaves of bread made with yeast-one representing Jacob (natural children of Abraham) and the other Israel (spiritual children of Abraham).


The stop in Thessalonica was the second in Macedonia, Philippi was the first. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were here over twenty-one days before being chased out of town and moving to Berea.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul said he taught Jesus as Christ and Him crucified, and had demonstrations of the power of the Holy Spirit-healings, signs and wonders, and the giving of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues. I believe he did this wherever he taught. His success in winning over converts made the Jews jealous.  

The “nut” part comes from the accusation the Jews made before the city officials. Jews walked a fine line in the kingdom of Rome. They had to acknowledge Caesar as king but could pass on his worship as a god. So, the attack came from success, unbelief, and the fear of losing their pass on the worship of Caesar. Nuts have a hard shell. Metaphorically, this accounts for the attack on the missionaries in Berea. The Good News could not enter them. They also did not get to crack them the first time, so they followed them to Berea. Acts 17:6 is a very telling statement- “they have caused trouble all over the world”. You must wonder just how powerful the Way really was in the first century?


The Bereans may have been the ancient ancestors of the “Show Me State”. They received the message but studied every day to check on Paul’s teachings. Historical facts end, more or less, in verse 15. Silas and Timothy stayed on. Maybe they took oversight of that church. It would be possible that they picked elders, as Timothy did on another occasion. Everyone wants the “noble character” moniker, so many churches and movements adopted the name Berean in order to identify themselves.

The Two Churches

As we see in Scripture many times, God starts in the dark and takes us to the light. In a black moment, for Paul, Jesus took him to Berea. This dark moment started when the jealous ones started a riot in Thessalonica and had Paul’s followers beaten. 1 Thessalonians 2:1has Paul telling those believers the visit was “not a failure”. The church in Thessalonica was not a failure and produced and stayed productive for many years. Aristarchus and Secundus are part of that fruit (Acts 20:4 and 27:2).

Many scholars put 1 Thessalonians as the first Letter Paul wrote. 1 Thessalonians 3:1 makes you think they wrote it several months after the first visit while Paul was in Athens (Acts 17:16). So, 1 Thessalonians may be the best look at what Paul taught and preached to new believers when he entered a city. It contains elements of “faith, hope, and love” (1Cornithians), the beginning of the teaching on the “armor of God” (Ephesians), and what we call end-times teaching. 2 Thessalonians really does not have a timestamp in it, but it was probably at or after his stay in Ephesus.

Acts 17-20 may only span 4 chapters, but it covers several years. Acts 20 mentions a return visit to Macedonia, which would include Berea and Thessalonica, before he traveled to Jerusalem and his imprisonment.

How much Paul traveled is open for debate because, in Titus, he talks about wintering in Nicopolis. Why would you “winter” somewhere you have never been? Nicopolis is an area on the west side of Macedonia.

Thessalonica was still active at the writing of 2 Timothy because Demas deserted Paul and fled there.

Berea also produced the fruit of Sopater son of Pyrrhus, one of Paul’s students and traveling companions (Acts 20:4).

Two cities with two synagogues produced the fruit of two churches we still study today; unfortunately, some nuts were required to get things cracking.  

Fruit and Nuts – Olives and Pistachios

Olives, wow what an iconic plant that represents not only the Church but also God the Holy Spirit.

The tree was very important to the daily life of people throughout the Bible. But unlike some of the other fruits I have looked at it was the oil made from the olive berries that held the most importance to daily life. In my studies I found that the olive berries were eaten, usually preserved in saltwater, but that the oil was used for many things – light, medicine and anointing. There were other oils (sesame and walnut) in use during Bible times but at least in the Bible it seems that when you see oil it was olive oil. I had to check but I could not find one reference to olive berries being eaten in the Bible.

The first mention of olives, in Genesis, is the leaves found in the dove’s mouth that Noah sent out after the flood. The last mention of olive trees is found in Revelation and they represent the two prophets in chapter 11. Either olives or oil is mentioned in most, but not all, of the books of the Bible.

Paul in Romans 11:17 – 24 represents spiritual Israel as a olive tree that we were grafted on to in the place of unbelieving Israel. That scripture tells me two things: first, heed Paul’s warning about arrogance toward Israel and that they knew how to graft fruit trees two thousand years ago!

The olive oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit’s anointing and gifts. Getting the oil required that the olives be crushed in an olive press the same technique is used today and the grades of oil come from the milling and collection process. It paints an interesting picture for us Christians who want God’s anointing. Are you ready to be crushed in order to be useful to the Church?

Another interesting fact I learned in my study was that olive trees have no growth rings so you cannot accurately tell the age of the tree.  Just like the Church, it is an “ageless” growing organism that is to be producing fruit.

Mount of Olives

a good article

Picture of olive tree

olive press

Pistachio Nuts

There is only one reference to pistachio nuts in the Bible (they did make it) and that is in Genesis 43:11.  They are part of the “gift” the brothers are to take back with them when they return to Egypt. I got the feeling Jacob was not only trying to bribe the “Man” but maybe open up a trading business. If you look at this story in Genesis chapters 42 and 43 the big thing I find interesting is the name shift, in chapter 42 it is Jacob in 43 it is Israel. (see What Was His Name) Maybe the shift here is because in chapter 42 Jacob is focused on himself while in 43 he is focused on the “family.”

The links below are interesting; check them out if you have the time.

pistachio nuts blog

fun facts

pictures of pistachio tree and nuts

nice website about Israel, its food and land

Fruit and Nuts – Grapes + Recabites

Grapes, raisins, vines/branches, and wine

When it comes to symbolism what better icon is there than the grape plant for representing the Church of Jesus?  Jesus used it in parables, it is part of our communion and it is referred to throughout Scriptures. Now as with most symbols you can attach several meanings to grapes and its vines; I am going to look at a few and let God reveal others to you.

  1. Part of Communion – The wine is to represent the Blood of Jesus. * Sorry, I did not say grape juice! I do go to a church that uses grape juice but ancient Israel would have had to ferment it in order to keep it. Several churches I know use grape juice so as to not have weaker Christians stumble and I am good with that!* But wine is a “living drink” having come from many individual grapes all put together and joined by yeast (it does not have to symbolize sin) to become something new. Yeast in Luke 13:21 is used as a picture of the Kingdom of God.
  2. Jesus refers to Himself, as the Vine and we, the Church, are the branches. John 15:5
  3. Nazirites – People separated to God for a season could not eat or drink any part of the grape plant while under the vow. (Look in Numbers 6 and remember that Samson was a Nazirite and so was John the Baptist, probably.) Interesting type and shadow, that people in the Old Testament who choose to get close to God had to give up grapes, a symbol for the church.
  4. Medicine – In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul urges Timothy to use a little wine because of his stomach; the alcohol can kill germs.
  5. The vine in Judges 9: 12+13 – refuses to rule over other plants so that it can do its job. I did not find any reference to a “vine” that was not grape.
  6. Misuse of wine – I guess the one that stands out is Noah getting drunk after the Flood. Proverbs 20: 1- “Wine is a mocker” (NIV) speaks for its self or Proverbs 23:29-35, “When will I awake so I can get another drink.”
  7. Raisins – They are grapes with most of the water (Holy Spirit) taken out of them but they still can revive a weak individual. Ex. 1 Samuel 30:12

However, you view wine drinking is between you and Jesus but the grape plant and its fruit are and always will be part of Church symbolism.

The picture of the grapevine is from

Recabites (NIV) or Rechabites (KJV)

First, my apology to anyone who is not familiar with American slang; the word “nut” can carry several meanings and for this blog, it is someone who is crazy (at least according to worldly standards).

The main story of the Recab family is found in Jeremiah 35. Here the prophet Jeremiah is instructed by God to have all of the men of the family come to the Temple and serve them wine. No pressure right, THE MAN of God invites you to church and expects you to join in “the boys night out” he is throwing. They refuse and state that they don’t drink because of a long-standing family tradition. (Drinking alcohol is not the point but it could be; I know it is a very volatile topic. I don’t drink because it is one thing that God delivered me from when I got saved. I have found out through the years that it is not me who is uncomfortable with not drinking but the drinkers around me.) They also state another family tradition of not owning houses or planting fields. Now all of this combined for some people would qualify them as “NUTS”, no “American Dream” of your own house; then to top all of that off they tell the man of God, NO.

So who were these Recabites who would say no when put into such a pressure situation? According to 1 Chronicles 2:55 they are one of the family groups that came from Caleb, the faithful spy in the Exodus story. Now there are several “Recabs” in the Bible and not all of them are from Caleb and when you read verse 55 you may recognize Kenites and again there are several groups with this name that do not seem to be related. But more specifically they may have come from the Jehonadab who sided with Jehu in 2 Kings 10 (it makes you wonder if they are part of the 7000 in 1 Kings 19) to get rid of Ahab and the prophets of Baal. So taking a stand and following God was a long time family tradition for the Recabites.  And in Jeremiah 35:19 God honors them because they honored the instructions of their ancestors. With a promise to always have a family member who serves God!

The picture of the Recabites is from

Fruit and Nuts – Figs and Nabal


Let us start our discussion of figs by talking about apples. In the Garden of Eden, there were two fruit trees that Adam and Eve did not eat from; according to Wikipedia, it is probable that they “became” apple trees during the Renaissance. I would like to make the case for them being fig trees; after all, what did they sew together to cover their shame, fig leaves. Most of this is a retake of a sermon I heard several years ago that used figs as a metaphor for the church/religion. The preacher made the point that where figs are mentioned just insert the idea of  “religion.”  I will not cover all of the references to figs and I am not sure all of them fit neatly into that box but let’s take a look at a few of them.

Genesis 3:7 Adam and Eve disobey and instead of trying to get back to God they cover themselves in fig leaves and people have been doing that ever since.

The phrase “under his own vine and fig tree” is found in several places in Scripture and can be a symbol of Israel being at peace but both of those plants are symbols for the church. Ex. 1 Kings4: 25, 2 Kings 18:31

Jeremiah 24: 1-10 is a vision where the prophet sees two baskets of figs in front of the Temple one good and one bad. This reminds me of Luke 6:43-46, which is the parable of the trees and the wise and foolish builder; this is where Jesus asks why do you say to Him Lord, Lord and do not do what He says.

John 1: 48 – Philip was under his fig tree and when he was called to come to meet Jesus.

Finally, the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree because it has no fruit and it dies.               Ex. Mark 11

Now in Israel, there is a sycamore-fig, it is not a true fig, but the analogy still works. And my final thought is something that is talked about in Scripture that I did not know; fig trees can bear two crops of figs, the first crop is called breba figs that grow from the old wood. The main crop follows on the ends of the branches- new wood. We can make all kinds of analogies here: natural vs spiritual Israel, former church latter church, new wineskins vs old wineskins, etc.

Please visit this blog to see more about figs.  The fig pic is from –


Proverbs 18:11 – The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall.             :23 – A poor man pleads for mercy, but a rich man answers harshly. (NIV)

I think these two verses are examples of why I picked Nabal as my first “nut.” But we will get back to him, let us look at 1 Samuel 25 and get some background. Carmel means, “Planted orchard” and is in the area of En Gedi, which is south of Jerusalem (yes there is an Mt. Carmel that is in northern Israel).  Abigail (Nabal’s wife) means “a father’s cause of joy” and after she married David she had his second son, Daniel     (1 Chronicles 3:5).  The Desert of Maon, which means “dwelling”, is in the land of Judea and became a hiding place for David.

Nabal was a descendant of Caleb who was one of the two faithful spies in the book of Numbers; so he was loosely related to David. This leads us to why I think he was a “nut.” In verse 10 when Nabal harshly answers David’s men he knew exactly who David was and what he was capable of doing so verse 10 and 11 is really a high-level insult. David’s request for a gift was for protection that he and his men had given Nabal’s flocks.  So insulting a “warlord” with 600 men when a few sheep would have made him happy is a “nutty” thing to do. Now the problem actually started in verse 9 when the young men “waited.” This word is only translated twice as “wait” many of the times it is used it is “rest” and many of those references are inferring a LONG rest. So as it says in Proverbs 18 Nabal thinks his money is his fortress and so he answers people harshly and made the men wait a long time. (see Judas)

Fortunately for David and all the men around Nabal’s house, Abigail had good judgment. Note – part of the gift was pressed figs.

As I enjoy trying to place Psalms where they may have been written I would put Psalm 109 after verse 35.

Also, the Lord’s use of “tens” in this text is interesting; Nabal was in a coma ten days, which also was the number of men David sent for the gift.

Map of Carmel and Maon from



Fruit and Nuts – Mark + Almonds

John Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark, is our first example of “fruit” from a ministry, that of Barnabas his cousin (Colossians 4:10). Barnabas “the encourager” took him under his wing when he and Paul had a falling out because of Mark (Acts 15:39). We really don’t hear a lot about Barnabas again but Paul tells Timothy to bring Mark along when he comes to see him (2Timothy 4:11). That is a real turn around for Paul and a line of thought is that change in Mark was because of Barnabas. He also helped Peter in his ministry (1 Peter 5:13).

Barnabas gets credit for the “fruit” but let’s look at where the “seeds” got planted. (Warning some of this comes from a very active imagination.)

Jesus himself, I believe, planted the seeds of Mark’s faith, because I think Mark was frequently with the disciples. Many scholars will say that there is a probability that Mark was the young man who “lost” his clothes in the Garden the night Jesus was arrested. Why would he have been with them? The upper room was at his house! Peter went back to Mary’s house (there were several) after the angel let him out of jail (Acts 12:12) this Mary is identified as Mark’s mother.  That would have also put him in the prayer meeting at Pentecost and possibly he was the one carrying the jug that the disciples followed to find the room (Mark 14:13).

Personally, I think that Peter and Andrew were his uncles and James and John were his cousins (Why not?). That would lead to this idea real easy; Mark was the little boy with the five biscuits and the two fish lunch. (I warned you.) I actually wrote a short story along that train of thought; he went along for the boat ride when Jesus needed the rest. But can you imagine getting a little boy’s attention for life with that miracle and what could his mother say when he comes home with twelve baskets of leftovers?

See this site for St. Mark

Now for the nuts – almonds.

The two stories that always get my attention about almonds are the ones in Jeremiah 1: 11,12 I see a rod of almond; You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it. And Numbers 17:8 where Aaron’s rod produced almonds in the Tent of Meetings.

The almond tree is the first tree to blossom in the spring so it became associated with watchers and the “first one”; the word almond comes from “shaqad” to be alert, sleepless, on the lookout for – hasten, remain, wake, watch. These scriptures are where it is used with these meanings: Watch– Jeremiah 31:28, 44:27, Proverbs 8:34; Wake-Psalm 127:1; Hasten– Jeremiah 1:12.  It is a play on words in Jeremiah 1:12 with the almonds and watching (footnote NIV and Strong’s).

The name Luz (the town that became Bethel) has a reference to almond trees.  This is where Jacob had his dream of the ladder to heaven.

The menorah or lamp had almond-shaped cups for the flames. The Maccabees received a miracle, the sign to continue the rebellion, with this type of lamp. The oil kept burning for a week instead of a day.

Over the years I have used several reference books to gather this material on almonds but this one had several interesting stories with it

For almond pic

For menorah pic