Daily Archives: June 10, 2009

Pistachio nuts among best products of the land

During the days of a severe famine in the land of Canaan, Israel (Jacob) agreed to allow his youngest son Benjamin to go to Egypt at the request of the man who was in charge of dispensing food. That man was Joseph, the son of Israel. Jacob agreed to allow Benjamin to go with his older brothers. He also told the boys to take some of “the best products of the land” including pistachio nuts.

Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. (Genesis 43:11 NAU)

I began thinking about this post while studying John 12.

Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NAU)

There are several significant words in this text: perfume (muron), pure (pistikos), and nard (vardos). The Greek word for pure (pistikos)  is difficult to define. Bauer-Danker says it is “variously interpreted, but evidently suggesting exceptional quality.” A comment by William Barclay caught my attention.

Oddly enough, no one really knows what that word means. There are four possibilities. It may come from the adjective pistos which means faithful or reliable, and so may mean genuine. It may come from the verb pinein which means to drink, and so may mean liquid. It may be a kind of trade name, and may have to be translated simply pistic nard. It may come from a word meaning the pistachio nut, and be a special kind of essence extracted from it. In any event it was a specially valuable kind of perfume.

Then I noticed the comments by Keil and Delitzsch on pictachio nuts (sic) in Genesis 43:11.

which are not mentioned anywhere else, are, according to the Samar. vers., the fruit of the pistacia vera, a tree resembling the terebinth, – long angular nuts of the size of hazel-nuts, with an oily kernel of a pleasant flavour; it does not thrive in Palestine now [1875], but the nuts are imported from Aleppo.

Well, that led me to think of photos I made in a pistachio orchard near Carchemish on the Euphrates (Jeremiah 46:2). This is about 65 miles from Aleppo.

Pistachio's growing near Carchemish on the Euphrates. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Pistachio's growing near Carchemish on the Euphrates. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I think this is the only place I have seen pistachio’s growing on a tree. The practical comment by Matthew Henry is worth meditating on for a while.

Note, (1.) Providence dispenses its gifts variously. Some countries produce one commodity, others another, that commerce may be preserved. (2.) Honey and spice will never make up the want of bread-corn. The famine was sore in Canaan, and yet they had balm and myrrh, etc. We may live well enough upon plain food without dainties; but we cannot live upon dainties without plain food. Let us thank God that that which is most needful and useful is generally most cheap and common.

That sort of outlines the rambling of the mind back of this post. It is amazing what one may learn once he begins to track down leads. I still don’t know if pure (pistikos) has anything to do with pistachio nuts! Meditate.