Deuteronomy 8:8 “A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey”
The land of Israel is described in the above verse as being a land of seven special food products. In scripture, the number seven speaks of perfection, and the seven food products listed have special typical significance.
What does the passage say?
The passage means what it says and says what it means. It is talking about a literal piece of land, a land that has specific borders, and a land that the children of Israel were to dwell in (see Exodus 3:8, Numbers 13:27, Joshua 15-17). This was God’s promise for His people, and in that land these food products were to be found.
What does the passage mean?
The passage has clear typical significance. According to Proverbs 30:5, “every word of God is pure”; therefore, these seven food products are listed in scripture for a specific reason. A careful study of God’s word reveals what each of these food products typifies.
- The first mention of wheat in scripture is found in Genesis 30:14. This associates wheat with a harvest. The harvest speaks to us of a time when that which was sown is reaped. It speaks of that which falls into the ground and dies bringing forth fruit (1 Corinthians 15:36-38).
- Wheat was used in the meat offering in the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 21:23). The meat offering used fine flour (Leviticus 2:1). Fine flour is wheat ground down so fine it is like a powder. It speaks of that which was crushed completely. Isaiah 28:28 tells us that bread corn is bruised. Corn is another term for wheat, and wheat is an ingredient of bread (Ezekiel 4:9). Bread speaks to us of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:35). The bruised bread corn speaks to us clearly of the sufferings of Christ (Isaiah 53:5).
- Wheat was traded (Ezekiel 27:17). Again this speaks to us of the suffering of Christ, who Himself was traded for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:3).
- Wheat is that food product that was cast overboard into the sea before Paul’s ship was shipwrecked (Acts 27:38). After this, all those on board were saved.
- Wheat is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 12:24, speaking of Himself, the Lord says, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
Wheat in scripture speaks to us of that thing which dies, is crushed, is traded, suffers, yet brings life. To me, wheat speaks so clearly of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in particular His suffering, His death, yet His bringing forth of life through these things.
- The first mention of barley in scripture is found in Exodus 9:31, and here we see that it is the first of the firstfruits; it is ready before wheat and rie. Therefore, we can safely say that barley would have been offered as part of the offering of the firstfruits on the day of Pentecost (Leviticus 23:10). In this chapter in Leviticus 23, we have the Passover and feast of Unleavened Bread (verses 5,6), and then we have the feast of Pentecost on the first day of the week (verse 11). This can also be called the eighth day. In scripture, eight speaks to us of new beginnings, or resurrection. The first fruits were offered on the first day of the week, speaking to us of Christ’s resurrection. In the resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15, we are reminded that Christ is “risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” (verse 20). Also, we are told that in Christ shall all be made alive, every man in his own order, “Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (verse 23). Because Christ is our firstfruits if we are saved, we indeed become “a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:18)
- Barley is strongly associated with Ruth and Naomi in the book of Ruth. They both went to Bethlehem at barley harvest (Ruth 1:22). Ruth gleaned in the field and beat out an ephah of barley (Ruth 2:17). Ruth kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest (Ruth 2:23). Boaz winnoweth (toss about, cast away, disperse, spread, strew etc) barley (Ruth 3:2). Boaz gave Ruth 6 measures of barley to take to Naomi (Ruth 3:15-17). Boaz purchased Ruth, whose husband had died (Ruth 1:5) to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren (Ruth 4:10) and Ruth gave birth to a son (born in type to Naomi verse 17) called Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David. Barley here clearly speaks to us of life from death, or resurrection.
- In 2 Kings 4 we read of the Shunammite woman’s son who died and rose again after Elisha lay on him after praying to the Lord (verses 18-37). Following this, the sons of the prophets were sitting, and put a wild vine in the pot of pottage. This bought death into the pot (verses 38-40). Elisha put meal (fine flour) into the pot and there was death no more (verse 41). Then came a man from Baalshalisha and brought Elisha bread of the firstfruits, 20 loaves of barley. Here again we have barley associated with a child that rose from the dead, and a pot of pottage that was recovered from death; barley clearly speaking to us of resurrection.
Barley in scripture speaks to us of that which was dead yet is now alive. It is often associated with resurrection and is one of the firstfruits. This typifies the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was dead but is now alive, and is the “firstfruits of them that slept”.
- The first mention of vines in scripture is found in Genesis 40:9-11. Here we read of Pharoah’s butler having a dream, and before him was a vine. This vine had clusters which brought forth ripe grapes. These grapes were pressed into Pharoah’s cup, and the cup was subsequently handed to Pharoah (verse 21). As a result of this, the wrath of Pharoah, which was upon the butler (verse 2), was pacified and the butler was restored (verse 21). It is interesting to note that the clusters brought forth ripe grapes, and in Isaiah 65:8 we read “As the new wine is found in the cluster,”. This new wine speaks to us of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:29). The King’s wrath was only pacified by the presenting of the “new wine” which came from the vine, and only then was the butler restored. This speaks to us clearly of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, for without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22)
- In Genesis 49:10-12 we also see a clear picture of the vine, wine and grapes speaking to us of the blood of Christ.
- In the Old Testament, the vine speaks to us of the nation of Israel. In Isaiah 5:2, the vineyard is Israel and the vine is Judah (see also Jeremiah 2:21; 6:9).
- In the New Testament, we read that the true vine is the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1). The fruit of the vine speaks of the Lord’s shed blood (Luke 22:18; Mark 14:24-25). This wine cheereth God and man (Judges 9:13) It cheereth God because it is the sacrifice of His son, the only acceptable atonement for sin, and it cheereth man because it is all he can offer for forgiveness of sin.
The vine speaks to us in scripture of that thing which brings forth new wine; new wine which cheereth God and man. This speaks to us so clearly of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the true vine, and the true vine sheds His own blood so that we might have redemption through it (Colossians 1:14)
- The first mention of figs in scripture is found in Genesis 3:7. Here we read after the Fall of man through disobedience, Adam and Eve “sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons”. This speaks to us of man trying to cover sin himself by his own works and righteousness (Romans 10:1-3).
- The fig tree speaks to us of sweetness and good fruit (Judges 9:11). Yet the fig trees of Matthew 21:19, and Luke 13:6-9 do not produce good fruit. These speak to us of the state of the nation of Israel.
- Good fruit is likened to the fruit of righteousness (James 3:17-18; 1 Philippians 1:11).
- Fruit is likened to righteousness in other places in scripture (see Ephesians 5:9; 2 Corinthians 9:10; Hebrews 12:11).
- In Jeremiah 24:1-10 we read of good figs and evil figs. Good figs speak to us of God’s goodness towards His people, and He giving them a heart to know Him and return unto Him with their own heart. A Christian living in righteousness (bearing good fruit) can expect God’s goodness towards him.
Fig trees in scripture speak to us of that thing which brings forth sweetness and good fruit, the good fruit being likened to righteousness. Where righteousness is forsaken, the fig tree does not bear fruit. Adam and Eve tried to apply the leaves of the fig tree themselves, speaking of self righteousness, but this didn’t cover their sin, so God had to clothe them Himself after shedding blood (Genesis 3:21). Of ourselves, our righteousness is as filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6), yet the righteousness spoken of by the fig tree is God’s righteousness, imputed to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 4:22-24).
- The first mention of pomegranates in scripture is found in Exodus 28:33-35. Here pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet were upon the hem of the robe of the high priest as he entered in and out of the holy place.
- The colours themselves here are significant. They were the colours of the curtains in the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1). They were also the colours of the freewill offering (Exodus 25:4).
- Blue - speaks of heavenly things, in particular the remembrance of the commandments of the Lord and holiness (Numbers 15:38-40). Purple – speaks of royalty (Judges 8:26; Esther 1:6; 8:15). Scarlet – speaks of that which is firstborn (Genesis 38:27-30). It also speaks of blood. It is found in the temple and is associated with the offerings in Leviticus 14 along with cedar wood and hyssop (verses 4,6,49-52). This speaks of Calvary and bloodshed.
- Blue, purple and scarlet were also found in the robe of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 27:28 – scarlet; Mark 15:17 - purple; Luke 23:11 – gorgeous; Ezekiel 23:6,12 – tell us that gorgeous is described as blue.
- In Numbers 4:4 we read about instruction for the things of the tabernacle “about the most holy things”. Blue, purple and scarlet are found amongst these things (verses 6,8,13).
- Pomegranates are found on the pillars of the temple (1 Kings 7:18-20; 2 Chronicles 3:16; 4:13). The temple, the place of holiness, was held up by pillars, and these pillars were covered in pomegranates.
- Song of Solomon, a book which speaks much about the beauty of holiness, makes mention of pomegranates several times (4:3,13; 6:7,11; 7:12; 8:2).
Pomegranates in scripture seem to be associated with that which is holy. Whether it’s the blue, purple and scarlet fruits found on the hem of the robe of the priest, which accessed the holy place, or the fruits found on in the temple, or the fruits associated with the beauty of holiness described in Song of Solomon, the constant theme is holiness. This speaks so clearly to me of the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who was holiness personified.
- The first mention of oil olive in scripture is when we are told that pure oil olive was to be used in the lamp in the tabernacle, causing it to burn always (Exodus 27:20; see also Leviticus 24:2). Compare this with 1 Samuel 3:3. This oil olive speaks to us of purity, particularly the purity of the Holy Spirit.
- Oil olive is found in the holy anointing oil (Exodus 30:24-25). This was to be used to anoint the tabernacle, the ark of the testimony, the table and vessels, the candlestick and vessels, the altar of incense, the alter of burnt offering and vessels and the laver and foot. They were to be sanctified as they are holy. Aaron and his sons were also anointed (Exodus 30:26-30).
- The anointing oil is holy, and is for the priests only. It will not be put upon man’s flesh, none shall be made like it and it shall not be put upon a stranger (Exodus 30:31-33). This again speaks of the purity of the Holy Spirit.
- In Psalm 52:8 we read “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God:” This speaks to us of the Lord Jesus Christ. An olive tree has, so to speak, the oil flowing through itself. So too, the Lord Jesus Christ was full of the Holy Spirit.
- The olive tree speaks of fatness, causing others to honour God and man (Judges 9:9). The olive tree caused others to honour God, not itself. This speaks of the Holy Spirit. He causes others to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, not Himself (John 16:8-14).
- Oil speaks of unity, only the unity that the Holy Spirit can bring through Jesus Christ (Psalm 133).
In scripture, oil olive seems to be constantly associated with that which is pure and holy. That which anoints and unites, that which glorifies not its own importance. That speaks to me so clearly of the person and work of the Holy Spirit, holy, pure, bringing glory to Christ.
- The first mention of honey in scripture is found in Genesis 43:11 where it is associated with the best fruits of the land and is available in a time of famine.
- The Manna provided by God to the children of Israel in the wilderness tasted like wafers made with honey (Exodus 16:31).
- Honey flowed through the promised land (Exodus 3:8,17; 13:5; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 14:8; 16:13; Deuteronomy 6:3; 11:9; 26:9,15).
- Jacob ate honey out of the flinty rock (Deuteronomy 32:13); God is the Rock (Deuteronomy 32:4). Honey speaks here of the word of God.
- In Judges 14:8-9, Samson saw honey in the carcase of the lion, and he ate it. In verse 14, we read, “out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness”. In verse 18 we read, “what is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?” The Lord Jesus Christ is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5), His word is meat (Hebrews 5:12-14) and His words are sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:10; Psalm 119:103).
- After battle, the children of Israel saw honey on the ground. Jonathan tasted the honey and his eyes were enlightened. This speaks clearly of the enlightening that comes from the word of God (Psalm 19:8; Job 33:30).
- It is good to eat honey, which is sweet to taste (Proverbs 24:13).
- In Ezekiel 3:3 we see that the roll that Ezekiel ate was like honey for sweetness (this refers to the words of the Lord – see verse 4). Also, in Revelation 10:9-10, the angel gave John a little book which he ate. In his mouth it was as sweet as honey, yet in his belly it was bitter (this again refers to the word of the Lord – see verse 11).
In scripture, honey is that thing which can be eaten and is sweet to the taste. It is available in a time of famine, it is pleasant to taste, it brings enlightening and it is good to eat. This speaks clearly of scripture. As well as these things, the word of God deals with us like no other book, and as well as being pleasant to taste, and bringing enlightening, it can also be bitter to taste, especially when it reveals that in our lives which shouldn’t be there.
Therefore, when we look at the 7 food products listed in Deuteronomy 8:8, we see 7 prophetic characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ. We see One that was born to die, in order that others might live (wheat), we see One who was to be raised from the dead (barley), we see One who was to shed His blood so that we might be redeemed (vines), we see One who would be righteous (figs), we see One who would be holy (pomegranates), we see One who would be anointed and filled with the Holy Ghost (oil olive) and we see One who would be full of the word and words of God (honey). We see the perfect characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ, that One that one day would come forth out of the land of Israel.
What does the passage mean to me?
We, as Christians, should see the characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ in our own lives.
- Wheat – We should be prepared to die to self in order that Christ might live within us (Romans 8:13; Galatians 2:20). Our lives should say “Thy will be done” not “my will be done”.
- Barley – We should live with resurrection truths in our daily lives. The resurrection is essential to the gospel we preach (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), the resurrection declares the power of God to quicken us (Romans 8:11), and the resurrection declares the hope of the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We should live expecting the return of the Lord Jesus Christ at any time.
- Vines – We should always realise that we, as believers, are washed clean from our sins by the precious blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5). It is His shed blood, and that alone, that cleanses us from all our sin (1 John 1:9) and we should live our lives realising that in Him all our sins are forgiven and we are free from the bondage of our guilt.
- Fig Trees – We should see righteousness, through the presence of Christ, in our daily lives. It should be a fruit that we bear (2 Corinthians 9:10; Philippians 1:11), and that fruit should cause us to forsake the things of this world, to be separate, and to follow Him alone (2 Corinthians 6:14).
- Pomegranates – We should, as Christians, attain to holiness in our daily living. We should aim to be holy, as Christ is holy (1 Peter 1:13-16; Romans 12:1), not polluted with the things of this world (1 Thessalonians 4:7).
- Oil Olive – When our lives are filled with the Holy Spirit of God, then we should glorify the Lord Jesus Christ at every opportunity (John 16:14). This should then cause us to live our lives walking in the Spirit rather than walking in the flesh (Romans 8:1). This will then help us, as Christians, to understand that for us, there is now no condemnation, and we are indeed adopted children of God (Romans 8:1, 15-16). This same Spirit, when present in our lives, will cause us to yield fruit which should be visible to all (Galatians 5:22-23).
- Honey – As Christians, we should give the rightful place in our lives to the word of God. We should love it (Psalm 119:140), listen to, read and meditate on it (Proverbs 4:20-22), let it deal with us in any way it needs to (Hebrews 4:12), use it as our final authority on all matters of faith and practice (Matthew 4:1-11), and let it prove our love for the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:23).
It is interesting to note that when God’s people forsake Him, then the food products (all but honey) disappear from the land (Joel 1:8-12). Yet even in these circumstances, the word of the Lord is still available (Joel 1:1). So too, in the daily lives of believers, when we walk in the world, away from the Lord, then we can expect His blessings to be withdrawn. Although we can never lose our salvation, we can lose our daily close fellowship with Him. It is by abiding in His word that we can keep close to Him.
The 7 food products of Israel speak to us in a historic sense of the beauty of the promised land; in a prophetic sense of the perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ; and in a spiritual sense of the 7 things that we, as Christians, ought to see manifest in our lives as we live for Him.