The above picture is a black walnut tree which grows in the US. In Israel walnut trees were Persian walnuts.
Reference: Song of Songs 6:1-12.
Solomon had an expert knowledge of plants (1 Kings 4:33). He described plant life from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop implying he studied not only the most majestic of plants, but those of little economic significance. He had flower and herb/spice gardens and a grove of nut trees. In this Song of Songs entry, Solomon is speaking. His words seem more reflective than addressed to the Beloved.
Solomon went down to the grove of nut trees to look at the new growth in the valley. Possibly, Solomon was looking for the first signs of spring (Song of Songs 6:11 note). Solomon wrote that while in the nut tree grove, “my desire set me among the royal chariots of my people” (Song of Songs 6:12, NIV-SB, 2002). According to the NIV-SB notes, this verse is the most obscure verse in Song of Songs. Yet, the meaning could be as simple as, the budding garden reminded Solomon of spring, a time of love. With thoughts of love, Solomon accessed a chariot to speed to his Beloved. Solomon was famous for his chariots which for him were a regular means of transportation.
The Walnut Tree
The nut trees in Solomon’s grove were most likely walnut trees. The species name is Juglans regia L., commonly called the Persian walnut. Those of us living in England and United States call it the English walnut. Controversy surrounds this walnut’s origin. While some botanists claim it originated in the Carpathian Mountains of Europe, others assign its origin to the Himalayan Mountains of China and India. In 2012, the walnut tree was not present in the three data bases allocated to the study of Israeli plants. The English walnut tree grows well in temperature climates. When the tree matures, often the canopy is as wide as the tree is tall. Walnut trees are valuable for their walnuts and for high quality wood used in the manufacture of cabinets and gun stocks. The heavy green rind encasing the walnut can be steeped in boiling water to produce a rich brown dye. In Jesus time, walnuts grew around the Sea of Galilee. Walker (1979) proposed that Jesus’ coat was a rich brown, dyed by the leaves and nut of the walnut tree.
In ancient times, the walnut symbolized fertility. Fertility is the manifold and copious ability to grow and develop, or to produce fruit. This image of fertility is consistent with descriptions used in Song of Songs. Details of the beauty and abundance of the land were provided; e.g., spice beds, flower gardens, and groves of nut trees. At the same time, fertility in the sense of producing off-spring was revealed in the love and attraction between Solomon and his Beloved. God planned for his people Israel to enjoy the land’s fertility — to eat its fruit and rich harvests (Jeremiah 2:7) and to produce strong children in the land.
In the Bible, fertility and abundance are linked with the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit causes the desert to become a fertile field (Isaiah 32:15) and Jacob’s descendants to spring up like grass in a meadow (Isaiah 44:3-4). The Holy Spirit is the source of prophesies, dreams, and visions in men and women of all ages and rank (Joel 2:28-29; Galatians 3:28-29).
My back garden is on a slope with good drainage. Over the past years, I planted several types of flower seeds and transplanted healthy nursery stock. We installed a soaking hose to provide a regular water source in dry weather and fertilized the plants. Yet, some plants did not flourish there. After a particularly frustrating spring and summer, I decided to have the soil tested. To my surprise, the soil was alkaline (basic) in pH rather than neutral or acidic. Most of the perennials e.g., rhododendrons, azaleas, and annuals that I planted preferred neutral to acid soil. Plants do not flourish in the wrong type of soil. They remain the same size or even decline in size. Some enter a vegetative state where few if any blooms are produced.
God wants us to be fertile like Solomon’s grove of walnut trees. The Holy Spirit flourishes in us so that we produce fruit, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Reflection: I was trying to grow flowers in the wrong type of soil. How’s your soil? Is your life’s garden a fertile place for the Holy Spirit to produce fruit?
Copyright February, 2012; Carolyn A. Roth