A dlose-up of an almond inside its shell on an almond tree.

The almond tree is native to the Middle East and appears often in Bible texts, most significantly in a few books of the Old Testament. The tree's early flowering and its Hebrew name "shakeid" -- to "wake" or "watch" -- make it a potent symbol of new beginnings and God's watchfulness, but it has meaning in other ancient cultures as well.

The Almond Tree in Judaism

In Jeremiah 1:11-12, the prophet Jeremiah talks to God, who uses the symbol of the almond branch to suggest he is watching the Israelites to see that they follow his word. The almond is sometimes known as the "Tree of Life," and its shape is imitated by the shape of the menorah, a candle holder used for Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.

Meanings in Ancient Cultures

The almond tree's symbolism of light goes beyond that recognized in Judaism. Its ancient Aramaic name, "luz," translates as "light," and it appears in creation stories of ancient cultures such as those of the Sumerians, the Phrygians and the Canaanites.