33 ¶ And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about:Pomegranates were part of the high priest’s robes.
34 A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about.
35 And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not. (Exodus 28:33-34)
And four hundred pomegranates for the two networks, even two rows of pomegranates for one network, to cover the two bowls of the chapiters that were upon the pillars; (1 Kings 7:42)Evidently there were temple pillars that Solomon built that had pomegranates as part of their decoration.
21 And concerning the pillars, the height of one pillar was eighteen cubits; and a fillet of twelve cubits did compass it; and the thickness thereof was four fingers: it was hollow.I remember reading through the Old Testament with my family growing up and wondering what was so significant about the pomegranate that the Lord would want representations of it to adorn the robes of the high priest and the temple.
22 And a chapiter of brass was upon it; and the height of one chapiter was five cubits, with network and pomegranates upon the chapiters round about, all of brass. The second pillar also and the pomegranates were like unto these.
23 And there were ninety and six pomegranates on a side; and all the pomegranates upon the network were an hundred round about. (Jeremiah 52:21-23)
The first progress I made towards understanding was on a “Plants of the Bible” tour of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Arizona when the guide pointed out that pomegranates symbolized eternal life. I was struck and excited by this.
Recently I did a search to see if there was more that could be associated with pomegranates. Here’s what I found:
- Christ’s atoning sufferings for our sins
- Eternal life
It’s a very messy process; cutting into it can induce an explosion of red juices all over, evoking remembrance of the blood that was shed for us.
It’s hard to get at all the fruit of a pomegranate. It’s a long, labor-intensive process.
Regina Schrambling has made an apt analogy: “[pomegranates] are the crabs of the produce aisle, wondrous to eat but a messy hassle to break down to extract that wondrousness.” Just like achieving eternal life takes work and time.
You want to get every single little aril—the “aril” is the little fruit-seeds inside the pomegranate—that you can, just like Christ works to try to get each of us.
The arils have to be handled carefully to remove them, otherwise they rupture. This reminds us of how carefully we are nurtured and how salvation comes through Christ’s persuasion and long-suffering, while forcing us to be good would break us.
Each one of the arils has the potential to become a pomegranate tree that bears many fruit. The large number of arils evoke the idea of the huge numbers of God’s children, all of whom are precious. (This also evokes the promise of eternal posterity as part of eternal life, so it certainly suggests a promise of fertility.)
These may have been the ideas that the Lord wanted to evoke by placing pomegranate decorations on the high priests robes.
Here’s a link to a video about getting seeds from a pomegranate.
(They try to make it seem like a shorter process, but you can see the care that has to be taken and you can see that it is a multi-stage operation.)
Image#1 from Producepedia.com, http://www.producepedia.com/pomegranates.php
Image#2 from Faerie’s Finest, http://www.faeriesfinest.com/A052.html