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Trees of the Bible (5): Palm Tree

The palm tree is another important tree in the Bible. The type of palm tree native to Israel is also called the date palm because it produces large clumps of fruit called dates. Dates were an important fruit in Bible times. They were a main food that everyone ate since dates grew abundantly in the area, were easy to preserve, and the seeds from the fruit could be easily transported and planted in new areas.
In the Bible, the palm tree often symbolizes fruitfulness and beauty. The righteous flourish like a palm tree (Ps. 92:12). When the temple was built, it had many carvings of palm trees for decoration (1 Kings 6). Judgment on Israel for their sins came in the way of withering the palm trees (Joel 1:12).
But the palm tree is most closely connected with Palm Sunday when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem a week before Easter. Palm leaves had been first used by the Greeks, then by the Romans as a symbol of victory, and it was a Roman tradition to lay palm leaves in the path of a hero entering his home city after achieving a great victory. The people of Jerusalem adopted a Roman tradition to celebrate Jesus’ entering the city, and thus even the non-Jewish Romans and Greeks in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday would have understood that Jesus’ entering Jerusalem was a victory celebration.
Those celebrating Palm Sunday probably didn’t fully understand what they were celebrating. They thought Jesus’ triumphant entry was the beginning of Jesus making a kingdom on earth. But today we celebrate it because Jesus made a heavenly and spiritual kingdom. We celebrate because of Jesus’ victory over sin, Satan, and death, on the cross on Good Friday and in his resurrection on Easter.
Yet his triumphant, victor’s march happened a week before his victory. Because God had planned Jesus’ victory in eternity, the victory could be celebrated even before it happened.
We too can celebrate the final victory of Jesus’ return at the end of time even now before it has happened because Jesus’ second coming and that victory are just as sure as his victory on the cross.