Palm branches in Israel (Revelation 7)

Bilderesultat for palm branches

The branches of the date palm appear in the symbolism of Greek, Roman and Jewish cultures:

  • Palms were a longstanding sign of victory in the Greek world, and the Roman authors Livy, Vigil and Cicero made use of them based upon this significance as well.
  • Palm branches were associated with the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:40).
  • Together with the myrtle, willow and citron, they formed the lulab, an object the rabbis tell us was shaken at the recitation of Psalm 118:25: “O Lord, save us!” (Hebrew, Hosanna!). In John 12:13 the crowds waved their palm branches while shouting this same verse.
  • The Maccabees used palm branches as part of the rededication ceremony for the temple (2 Maccabees 10:7) and minted coins picturing palm trees along with the inscription “For the redemption of Zion.”
  • These symbols were also employed by the Jews of the failed Bar Kokhba rebellion when they attempted to overthrow the Romans and set up a Messianic kingdom.

Palm branches thus vividly depicted God’s victory and the deliverance og His people. Revelation 7:9 portrays Christians who have overcome the persecutions of this world as waving palm branches and wearing white robes. The symbolism of the palm braches would have been meaningful to any ancient reader, but especially to one familiar with the place of palm branches in Jewish tradition and worship.


 

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