In this post I’m going to be covering a less known biblical holiday. It’s called Tu B’Shevat. This holiday will occur on January 21, 2019. It will also coincide with a total lunar eclipse, and a super moon. It is not one of the major Feasts of the Lord mentioned in Leviticus 23. It is not called by this name in the Bible, but is instead referred to as the NEW YEAR FOR TREES, and is referenced in Leviticus 19: 23-25. You may already know that Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Feast of Trumpets, is considered the civil new year on the biblical calendar. So why is there a new year for trees?
To understand better, let’s look at the biblical meaning behind Tu B’Shevat. First of all, Tu B’Shevat simply means “the 15th of the month of Shevat.” It occurs on the 15th day in the month of Shevat. On the Gregorian calendar (the calendar the world follows), the month of Shevat occurs in January/February each year.
This holiday coincides with the very beginning stages of spring in Israel. The trees with the earliest blooming cycles will begin the cycle of their fruit bearing at this time of year. By this point in the cycle, the trees should have taken in all the winter rains. This water goes into the veins of the tree, which brings it “new life.” Consequently their sap content will rise, and this is why this time is marked as the beginning of the growing season for trees. This is why this holiday is called Rosh Hashanah for trees, or the new year for trees. They are beginning their fruit bearing cycles. In ancient Israel, this day was called the “first fruits of the trees.”
Today in modern Israel it is customary to plant new trees on this holiday. This is interesting to note because in 70 A.D., when the Romans destroyed the Temple and desolated the land, guess what they did? They cut the trees down! Deuteronomy 29:22-28 prophesied the destruction of the land when it said it will become “brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive…..” After the land was burned and desolated, the Jews were scattered. They were driven out of their homeland. In 1867, famous writer Mark Twain visited the Holy Land and described the area as “unpicturesque” and “unsightly”, as well as “desolate”. Twain also said, “Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes.”
In the 1890’s, when Jewish settlers first came back to the land of Israel, there were barely any trees- because many of them had been destroyed and burned in the past. The Jewish settlers began the process of rejuvenating and restoring the land. It took years of hard work, blood, sweat, tears and ingenuity to turn the land that was desolate to a “blooming rose”, as prophesied in the Bible. Thus says the Lord God, “On that day…. I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt.” Ezekiel 36. “And the desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by.” These verses come from Ezekiel 36, which prophesies the restoration of the Jews to the land, and the renewal of the land. Ezekiel 37 also prophesies this rebirth. Though Jews were returning to the land as early as the 1890’s, the Jews of Israel wouldn’t become a nation again until May 14, 1948. By then, trees could be spotted all throughout the land and those trees bore much fruit! Now, we can see why it is traditional to plant trees on Tu B’Shevat. What a great reminder of God’s love and promises to the Jewish people.
Tu B’Shevat is first referred to specifically during the late Second Temple period. It was actually the cut off date for levying the tithe on the produce of fruit trees. Many Jewish people celebrate the holiday by eating fruit as well. It is a reminder to produce fruit in their lives for the coming year.
The first tree to show its blossoms is the ALMOND TREE. Even today it is a custom to eat almonds on Tu B’Shevat. The Hebrew word for almond is shakeid. This word comes from a root word that means TO WATCH OR WAKE. The almond tree is the first tree to “wake up” from its winter sleep! It is getting ready for Spring and, in essence, rise with its fruit.
Do you see any connections here? If not, let me help you. Firstly, let’s understand that in the Bible, as believers of Jesus, we are compared to trees. As trees, we are told to bear fruit.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. JOHN 15, 1-8
It can’t get clearer than that! But, I could go on for a while listing verses where it says we are trees that should bear fruit. Did you notice the verses above were from John 15? Remember, Tu B’Shevat is on the 15th of Shevat!
So, if we are to be like trees bearing fruit, that means we are to be doing the work of Jesus. We don’t keep Jesus to ourselves. We share him with others. There are many ways to do that, but it involves witnessing to people, helping others and actually sharing our Christian faith. How can we produce fruit if we never talk about him, or share the truth with others? How do we produce fruit if we keep our faith to ourselves? We have to be DOING something for the kingdom. There are so many people who are afraid to even say the name of Jesus in public for fear that they will sound religious! Well, I’ll tell you this- there is no power without his name! So, if you can’t share it, how do you expect fruit to come? You can do all the good deeds in the world, but if Jesus isn’t behind it, it is fruitless. Be fruitful, and do it in his name.
Did you know Tu B’Shevat is the time of year when owners of tree orchards would inspect their trees in Israel? They were checking for the beginning stages of fruit! Tu B’Shevat is a time when God also checks the orchards/trees for fruit. As a nation, and as individuals, what FRUIT are we producing? We may not be taking note, but God is.
Now that you know about the holiday itself, and some of the symbolism, let me tie in some interesting facts. Earlier in this post I told you a total lunar eclipse will occur on Tu B’Shevat this year. This lunar eclipse will also be a super moon. Well, guess what? Last year, the same thing happened! On Tu B’Shevat in 2018, a total lunar eclipse occurred, as well as a super moon. Not only that, last year the lunar eclipse which occurred on Tu B’Shevat was one of three super moons that happened in a row. These super moons occurred on December 3, 2017, January 2, 2018 and January 31, 2018 (Tu B’Shevat was on January 31- the third in the series). Not only this, the Tu B’Shevat total lunar eclipse/super moon of January 31, 2018 was also a blue moon! A blue moon happens when there are two full moons in the same month. The last time there was a blue moon, super moon and total lunar eclipse all at once was in 1866. So, as you can see, it wasn’t a common occurrence.
What is a super moon? A super moon occurs when the moon is at its closest approach to earth while in orbit. To be more specific, the moon’s orbit is not circular. It is an elliptical orbit because of certain forces pulling on it, such as gravity. Because of this, the orbit of the moon each month is never exactly the same. Thus, there are certain months when the orbit of the moon will bring it closer to the earth than other times. This is the case with super moons. The moon isn’t bigger, it just LOOKS bigger because it is closer to our planet. This is called being at PERIGEE. Since the moon will be full when this occurs, it will look big and beautiful, or as some would say…..SUPER! Also, because the moon is closer, it appears much brighter.
Interestingly enough, not all super moons are the same. Because the moon’s elliptical orbit changes from month to month, not all super moons are equal in their distance from the earth. For instance, the closest super moon occurred on NOVEMBER 14, 2016- this super moon is the closest the moon has been to Earth since JANUARY 26, 1948. The super moon of January 1948 happened four months before Israel declared itself a nation on May 14, 1948. The November 14, 2016 super moon occurred six days after the Presidential election in 2016. What I find interesting is that our President, Donald Trump, has actually recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This is astounding because no U.S. President has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital. They have all skirted the issue, and of course, kept the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. But not Trump- he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. One of the closest super moons occurs the year Israel is re-established as a nation, and the next CLOSEST one occurs the year a President is elected who recognizes their capital. Coincidence? I don’t think so and I don’t think the January 2018 super moons were a coincidence either. Whether you like Trump or not, this one move made by him has prophetic significance. Where this is all going I do not know for sure. I can only hope the U.S. will never back any peace deal (two state solution) that involves Jerusalem in the future. Jerusalem is the Lord’s city! We must never agree to divide the Lord’s holy capital! What’s interesting too is that the super moon of November 16, 2016 will not be surpassed until November 25, 2034. So, that date (right after the 2016 Presidential election) will keep its record holding spot for 18 years.
This year’s total lunar eclipse on Tu B’Shevat is a double play! It happened last year and now it’s happening again this year! Actually, it is more of a triple play! Let me explain……
Last year there were three super moons in a row, with the Tu B’Shevat lunar eclipse being the third in the series. THIS YEAR, there will be three again! Only this time, the Tu B’Shevat lunar eclipse will be the first in the series.
This total lunar eclipse on Tu B’Shevat will be the last one of the decade as the next one will not occur until May of 2021 for the United States.
The entire eclipse will last about 3.5 hours, starting with the partial eclipse phase, when Earth’s shadow begins to appear visible on the moon, at 10:34 p.m. ET (03:34 UT). The last bit of this shadow will leave the moon’s surface at 1:51 ET (06:51 UT). Totality will last 63 minutes, with the maximum eclipse—when the moon is at its most brilliant color—occurring at 12:12 a.m. ET (05:12 UT). You will watch the eclipse starting the evening of January 20 (10:30 p.m.) and continue watching into January 21, 1:51 a.m.
Here’s another thing to ponder. Remember when I said the FIRST tree to show blossoms (beginning stages of fruit) is the almond tree? Then, I said the root word for almond in Hebrew is WATCH or WAKE. The almond tree is awakening at Tu B’Shevat. As believers in Jesus and trees of Jesus, we are to be FULLY ALERT to him, his plan and the Holy Spirit. We are to be aware of the times and seasons as well. Keep in mind that seasons in Hebrew means “feasts” and “appointed times.” That means we are to be mindful of the Feasts of the Lord such as Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost (also known as Shavuot), Feast of Trumpets (also known as Rosh Hashanah), Day of Atonement (also known as Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (also known as Sukkoth). Most Christians have little knowledge of the symbolic nature of these feasts and how they foreshadow what Jesus has already done, and will do. But, I really think this is part of being “awake” because it will help you see the full plan of Jesus in this crazy world. In addition, being awake means being in constant connection with Jesus. He should be your every day routine and the most important part of your life.
Here’s some other interesting things about the almond tree in the Bible. A story from the Bible involving an almond tree is in Numbers 17. It involved Aaron, a high priest for God. Aaron had a staff, which he used to perform signs and wonders. This staff miraculously budded overnight, flowering and producing almonds. Now, why is this important? Because Aaron, the High Priest, was a forerunner to our future High Priest-Jesus Christ. His rod is a symbol for the future power Christ would possess through his death and resurrection on the cross. Before Christ, priests like Aaron were needed to make intercession for us. When Christ died, he made the ultimate intercession, thereby allowing full access to God himself.
Even more amazing is that the golden lamp stand, or menorah, was decorated with oil cups in the shape of almond blossoms. The Menorah itself is designed after a tree. Its branches emulate light and represent the light of God. Christ literally became the Menorah because he is the light of the world. He gives us the Holy Spirit (represented by the oil in the menorah). He is the Branch, and tree of life. How fitting that the cups holding the oil are shaped like almond blossoms- the first tree to awaken for spring. The first tree getting ready to bear fruit!
What’s also amazing about fruit is that Jesus is called the First Fruit. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at his coming.” 1 Corinthians 15, 20-23. Hey, did you catch the number? I didn’t even plan that! Corinthians 15 (Remember Tu B’Shevat is on the 15th?) Did you notice the part where it says Christ is the First Fruit, and then it says we are first fruits as well- We are the first fruits when he returns. At the Rapture there will be a harvest of first fruits. When Christ resurrected, it was the barley harvest. Barley is a soft grain that separates easily. Those who have received Christ (the Bride) when he returns are the barley harvest. When he returns at the Second Coming there will be yet another harvest. Wheat is harvested after barley. It has a hard shell and in biblical days it had to be cracked by using a tribulum. A tribulum is a threshing board with many teeth of stone and iron. Those who are harvested during the Tribulation are like this harder wheat that are cracked by the tribulum. Do you see the parallel- tribulum- Tribulation???
Christ actually rose from the dead on the Feast of First Fruits. I know you might think, “Don’t you mean Easter?”……., but in the Bible it is called First Fruits. The Israelites had been celebrating First Fruits as a DRESS REHEARSAL long before Christ rose. God did this as a sign, so they would know when Jesus rose on First Fruits, he was fulfilling the actual feast by being the first “fruit” out of the ground! He was crucified on Passover, in the tomb during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and then he rose on First Fruits! These feasts are in your Bible and Christ has fulfilled the first four already. He will certainly fulfill the last three as well (Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Tabernacles). When he will fulfill them, we don’t know. These feasts occur every year–just like Christmas, Easter and New Year’s occurs every year. They are appointed times, however, so it is important to be awake and alert to their timing on the calendar each year- we are to be awake like the almond tree!
Speaking of almonds have you noticed how popular almond milk has become in the last few years? It is everywhere now! I have been buying it for years. But, it just became popular in the last five years! Coincidence? Who knows, but worth noting……….
Many people look at lunar eclipses and solar eclipses as nothing more than the universe doing its thing. I beg to differ- it is GOD doing HIS thing. Back in 2014 and 2015 the United States experienced a tetrad of four blood moons (total lunar eclipses) in two years. All of these eclipses occurred on the Lord’s Feasts (mentioned in Leviticus 23). Two occurred on Passover (April 15, 2014, April 4, 2015) and the other two occurred on the Feast of Tabernacles (October 8, 2014, September 28, 2015). Passover represents Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross, but more importantly HIS RESURRECTION. He was the first fruit out of the ground. The Feast of Tabernacles represents CHRIST REIGNING ON EARTH and redeeming it ! This same tetrad of blood moons (total lunar eclipses) happened in 1967 and 1968 as well. In 1967, Israel reclaimed the rest of Jerusalem, uniting the capital! In December 2017, the United States President recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital. Even though Israel reclaimed this land back in 1967, the rest of the world has never recognized it, not even the United States! But, right before the Tu B’Shevat total lunar eclipse of 2018 (which was also part of a triple super moon- and was also a blue moon), we have the United States finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital. I’m not sure if you realize how important this is. After all, God says in Zechariah 2:8 that Israel is the apple of his eye. In Isaiah 49:16 he says Jerusalem is engraved on the palms of his hands! God also gives very strong warnings to any nation who tries to divide the land of Israel. Read Joel 3, and also Joel 2 to get a taste of this warning. Genesis 13: 14-15 is clear about who has the right to the land:
“Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
Notice that God says to Abraham, I will give it to you and your offspring FOREVER. The use of the land may have gone back and forth to other nations over the history of Israel’s people being dispersed, but keep in mind that the deed to the land belongs to the Jewish nation FOREVER. So, if a nation wants to go about forcing Israel to give up their God given land, then that nation is messing with God! God owns the deed and he made a covenant promise to Israel regarding the land.
We now know that Tu B’Shevat is all about the TREES that bear fruit. Did you know an olive tree is considered a fruit tree! Even though we associate olives with vegetables because of their salty, savory taste, it is still considered a fruit by botanists. Why is this important? Well, the Apostle Paul wrote something extremely important to Gentiles and Jews in Romans, chapters 9-11. Chapter 11 culminates the message that God has never rejected the Jewish people, even though the majority of them have not received his Son, Jesus. It actually says that the JEWS AND GENTILES ARE PART OF THE SAME FRUIT TREE! THE OLIVE TREE! Then, it says that the Gentiles must always remember that the Patriarchs came through the Jewish people, and the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God has a plan for the nation of Israel, and for the Gentiles TOGETHER. It is important to remember that Christians are to love the Jews and to stand with God’s plan for them. This means we do not support dividing their land and we do not align ourselves with the lies of the world. The United Nations and the countries surrounding Israel align themselves with terrorist nations and support sanctioning Israel, and taking her land. As fruit bearers we must remember that Jesus is coming back to the land of Israel and he will rule from Jerusalem! He has never stopped being Jewish and one of the key goals for his Kingdom is that his own people, the Jews, receive him.
This is what God says about the nation of Israel:
“Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the seas so that its waves roar…….. if this fixed order departs before Me, declares the Lord, then the offspring of Israel will also cease from being a nation before Me forever.'” JEREMIAH 31:35-37
This means God will never desert the nation of Israel. Only if the sun and moon fail will they cease being a nation before him! Yes, there have been horrible persecutions in the past, and prophecy says there will be persecutions in the future (see the book of Revelation), but God will fulfill his covenant promises. The Jews and the Gentiles will one day be a gigantic olive tree, and Jesus will rule over everyone with a rod of iron. There will be SHALOM –peace with the Prince of Peace.
All these eclipses remind me to look up- Jesus is my Savior and redemption. It reminds me to bear fruit. It reminds me to get ready for a future harvest. Jesus is called the BRANCH! He is going to return one day and it would be great to have fruit when he returns. The only way to do that is to stay AWAKE and go about our father’s business in the vineyard.
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1: 2-3
In Israel they will be planting trees on this very special holiday. This planting of trees reminds the people that God planted them back into their own land again. They became a nation again on May 14, 1948. The only thing missing is their Messiah- their First Fruit!!!! Let’s pray for the King to come back and bring them what they’ve needed all along! JESUS—- Perhaps all these celestial events are a reminder that the KING IS COMING SOON and redemption is coming with him for the entire world.
I wrote a blog about the Tu B’Shevat lunar eclipse last year. Here is the link for that from my 67owls website below. I have taken excerpts from that post and put them into this post because this year’s total lunar eclipse is happening on the same holiday- Tu B’Shevat.
This blog is about the 2017 solar eclipse that crossed the United States
What is a total lunar eclipse?
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, moon and earth form a straight line. In this path, the earth gets between the sun and the moon. Consequently, the earth will block direct sunlight from reaching the moon. The Earth’s shadow will be cast on the moon. The Earth’s atmosphere will refract the light of the Sun and this light will be seen as a deep orange/red on the moon. Keep in mind the moon does not have its own light and the Sun is its source of light. During a total lunar eclipse, the moon will have a reddish color because it is now reflecting the refracted light that passed through the earth’s atmosphere.
References and Resources
The Holy Bible: NIV version
The Jewish People: Rejected or Beloved ,by Dr. David R Reagan
Hebrew for Christians https://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Winter_Holidays/Tu_B_shevat/tu_b_shevat.html