Puzzling over this, Dr. Sarah Sallon of the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center (NMRC) wondered if these old seeds could sprout. If successful, they would prove to be not only “incredibly resilient but also informative”, as they would bring an extinct tree back to life.
It seems that the Judean Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) was heretofore only known from historical accounts, where it was noted for its sweet, large fruit, which also had medicinal properties. This fruit tree played a significant role in the Judean economy for about two millennia - at the least from the fifth century B.C. until the 11th century A.D. Sadly, however, it went extinct centuries ago.
Partnering with scholars from the Université de Montpellier (France), Arava Institute of Environmental Studies (Israel), New York University Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), and University of Zurich (Switzerland), Dr. Sallon worked to bring her idea to fruition. In 2008, they successfully germinated a 2,000-year-old seed from Herod’s fortress at Masada near the Dead Sea.
Appropriately, they named this seedling “Methuselah.” This past year, they revealed the germination of six additional seeds: one from Masada, four from Qumran, and one from Wadi Makukh.
These were also given Biblical names: “Adam,” “Jonah,” “Uriel,” “Boaz,” “Judith,” and “Hannah,” respectively. Radiocarbon dating indicated that Methuselah, Hannah, and Adam date to the fourth–first centuries B.C., Judith and Boaz date to the mid-second–mid-first centuries B.C., and Uriel and Jonah date to the first–second centuries A.D.
The article went on to state:
“For their most recent study, the researchers chose 34 well-preserved seeds from excavations in the Judean wilderness. Leaving one as a control sample, they prepared the others to be planted. First they soaked them in water for 24 hours, then gibberellic acid for 6 hours (to help embryonic growth), followed by Hormoril T8 solution for 6 hours (to help rooting), and finally KF-20 fertilizer for 12 hours.
During this process, they discovered and removed one damaged seed. They planted the remaining 32 seeds in potting soil at the Arava Institute of Environmental Sciences in southern Israel. Of this group, only six germinated. After eight weeks, the researchers added KF-20 fertilizer and iron chelate to the six seedlings’ soil. They repeated this step periodically to encourage growth.
Sallon and her team were able to study the genotypes of the seedlings. The genes of modern date palms come from two fairly distinct populations: an eastern variety (from the Middle East, Arabia, and Asia) and a western variety (from Africa). The researchers determined that the Judean date palm came from crossbreeding eastern varieties with western varieties. They could see waves of this crossbreeding in their seedlings. The seedlings from the older seeds—Methuselah, Hannah, and Adam—have the most eastern genotypes; Judith and Boaz are pretty evenly mixed; and the seedlings from the younger seeds—Uriel and Jonah—have the most western genotypes.
This shows that the western varieties were added over time to the eastern (local and foreign) varieties. Farmers intentionally crossbred their local trees with foreign varieties to achieve desired traits. Compared to modern date seeds, the ancient seeds were longer and wider. This corroborates the historical descriptions of these dates as being large. The descriptions of the dates’ sweetness are also accurate. It takes 4–10 years for female palm trees to bear fruit, and this past fall (in 2020) Hannah did indeed produce dates. The father was Methuselah. The researchers confirm the fruit has a subtle sweetness. The taste is interesting - not overly sweet with a lovely side taste of honey.”
Sauter then concludes her article with this observation:
“Overall, this study breathed new life into old seeds - and historical accounts - and helped illuminate the environment, agriculture, and economy of Roman Judea. Fruit in the Bible Seeds and fruit remains are exciting discoveries for archaeologists. Not only do they provide clues about ancient agriculture and diets, they can also provide radiocarbon data to help date buried strata.”
Wow! Imagine an extinct Biblical plant new being resurrected! That which was dead has now been brought back to life! Little wonder then, that as I read this amazing article, I could not help but be reminded that the God of the Bible is Himself a God of restoration.
While His restorative power is on display in every Book of the Bible, it is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in the first 14 verses of the 37th chapter of the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel. Here, we find the following:
1The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
7So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
The context for this passage is what God did for an entire nation. Israel had once been a great people; but over time, she had fallen into moral and spiritual decline, and as a result, had eventually been invaded by the Babylonians, whereupon she had been deported into foreign captivity. This had occurred in 586 B.C. But as the fulfillment of this prophecy shows us, 70 years later, she was released from captivity and allowed to return to and resettle her homeland.
What He did for Israel, in bringing her back from death to life, is what He later did for all people in all ages. By allowing His Son to give His life as a vicarious sacrifice for the sins of mankind, God made it possible for each and every person to experience new life in Christ.
The apostle Paul affirms this when he tells us in his Second New Testament Letter to the Corinthians (chapter 5, verse 17) that: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” He underscores here his earlier message to the Romans (chapter 6, verse 4) that Jesus Christ’s victory in being raised from the dead means that “we too might walk in newness of life”.
The good news is that God still delights in bringing new life to things that are essentially dead. He still offers new life to the spiritually dead. And He does not stop there. Having given us new life in Christ, He works to make our new life an abundant one! As Jesus put it the New Testament Gospel of John (chapter 10, verse 10): “The thief (meaning the Devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; but I have come that (men and women everywhere) may have life, and have it to the full.”
This is not to say that we will never experience difficulties in life. For Jesus himself told us (in the same Gospel of John, chapter 16, verse 33), “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” If 2020 proves anything, it is just how right Jesus was! We have all been reminded that life can be fraught with unexpected troubles, setbacks, and heartaches! But the important thing is what Jesus added to that famous phrase: “But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
Were you getting along well enough in life about this time last year? Were you plodding merrily along only to have your world suddenly turned upside down by something out of the clear blue called Covid -19? If so, you are not alone! We all went through it together.
But the good news is that the life we once knew, the life that was replaced by what at times may have seemed like a living death, the life that seems now all but extinct, can be had again! How can I say this? Because 2020 itself is now dead! Yet the God of the Bible, Who is the God of the future, Who is the God Who makes all things new, Who brings flesh and blood and skin to skeletons, Who brings new life in His Son, and Who give life to the full, this God is alive and well!
As I pen this post, already, a new year is unfolding! Already, a new day is dawning! Already, the future is brightening! Already, our God is up to something! Already, our God is at work! And as these things happen, my prayer is that He will now utterly amaze us, once again, by demonstrating just what He can do in this coming year of new life!
I conclude with the Divinely inspired words of yet another Old Testament Prophet, Isaiah, who (in chapter 43, verse 19) put God’s message to His people in these beautiful words: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; even now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?!”