The apple is probably the most well-known and available fruit in the world. From the costermonger in the Victorian age to the mega stores of the modern world, apples are always on display. But it is not just the common apple, with its multiple varieties that have the name, for the word “apple” was originally used to describe all fruits; in fact the French word ‘pomme’ simply means ‘fruit’. Here are a few example of how ‘apple’ is still used: the tomato and eggplant (aubergine) are both called ‘love apples’; the pomegranate is ‘the apple of Carthage’; the humble potato is called ‘the apple of the earth’; the banana is known as ‘the apple of paradise’, and of course we cannot forget the pineapple. It is interesting to note that the potato and tomato were originally the same plant known as ‘Belladonna’ (deadly nightshade) whose poison can kill almost instantly and is known as ‘the devil’s cherries’ or ‘death cherries’. That is the end of our horticultural discussion. We will turn to Scripture and see how the Bible makes use of the apple.
Adam and Eve
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-5).
If we have ever seen painting of this scene in the Garden of Eden, usually Eve is depicted holding an apple, and we as good Bible students know that it was unlikely to have been that fruit that she ate. Where did the notion that it was the apple that Satan tempted the first woman with come from? While it is often put down to the artist’s creative licence, in fact the Latin for ‘apple’ is ‘mallum’ and literally means ‘evil’. Therefore the text was simply stating that the fruit Eve was biting into was symbolic of evil.
Since both Adam and Eve already had the knowledge of good, for they knew God personally, they were in reality presented with the temptation to explore evil. Have you noticed how the tempting rosy apple is used to ensnare characters in fairy stories such as Snow White? It seems that since the days of the Latin Bible the apple has been used as a symbol of evil. Whether or not the apple was the fruit of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9), our first parent’s disobedience to God’s command (Genesis 2:16-17) brought sin into the world. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).
The Priests and the Pillars
“And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue. And there shall be an hole in the top of it, in the midst thereof: it shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of an habergeon, that it be not rent. 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: A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about. 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. And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD” (Exodus 28:31-36) … “And he made the pillars, and two rows round about upon the one network, to cover the chapiters that were upon the top, with pomegranates: and so did he for the other chapiter. And the chapiters that were upon the top of the pillars were of lily work in the porch, four cubits. And the chapiters upon the two pillars had pomegranates also above, over against the belly which was by the network: and the pomegranates were two hundred in rows round about upon the other chapiter” (1 Kings 7:18-20).
Have you ever wondered why the pomegranate was depicted so prominently in Solomon’s Temple? As mentioned above, the pomegranate is also known as an apple, so we see that this fruit is symbolic of some characteristic of God, for anyone seeing it on the robes of the priest or the pillars of the temple would understand that the Lord’s holiness is beautiful. “O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 96:9). Some ancient Jewish commentators believed that the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit of Eden. Added to this is the fact that, on average, the pomegranate has 613 seeds and corresponds exactly with the 613 requirements (commandments) of the Law of Moses. Where the images of this fruit a constant reminder of man’s inability to obey the holy God thus “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
“For he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8) … “He kept him as the apple of his eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10) … “Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings” (Psalm 17:8).
Each of these verses teach us that God’s people are precious to Him. The term “apple of his eye” literally means ‘little man of the eye’. When you look into someone’s eye there is a perfect mini refection of yourself in his or her pupil. The Hebrew idiom is translated as ‘pupilla’ in Latin, which in turn means ‘little doll’ or ‘little child’. This is the reason we have the same word for part of the eye and a schoolchild. Nobody wants to have his or her eyes poked, and everyone hates to see a child abused. No wonder therefore that we are so precious to the Lord. Though He was talking about young children, it is certain that the words of Jesus found in Matthew 18:6 relate also to all of God’s children, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
God knows all about what we go through in life; He sees who offends us; and takes note of our service for Him. Since we are ‘the apple of His eye’, we know that He is constantly with us in every situation. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). We do not need to be anxious or fearful over anything anyone could possible do against us. “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:1-2).
There are several other usages of ‘apple’ in the Scriptures, including the fact that we ought to hold God’s word dear to our hearts. “Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye” (Proverbs 7:2). What we have seen in this study is that the Lord is holy and desires to have a close, personal relationship with us. Numerous Bible verses tell us that God loves His children dearly, truly they are as “apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).