Questions From Readers
● Proverbs 25:11 and other texts in the Hebrew Scriptures mention “apples.” However, many authorities insist that this refers to another fruit. Were apples grown in Palestine when the Hebrew Scriptures were written?
There is much conjecture as to the identification of the tree and fruit denoted by the Hebrew tappuwahh, appearing at Proverbs 25:11, where opportune speech is likened to “apples of gold in silver carvings.” The apple tree is considered mainly in The Song of Solomon, where the expressions of love by the Shulammite’s shepherd companion are likened to the pleasant shade of the apple tree and the sweetness of its fruit. (Song of Sol. 2:3, 5) In turn, he compares her breath to the fragrance of apples. (Song of Sol. 7:8) The Hebrew word translated “apples” in the New World Translation indicates that which is distinguished by its fragrance or scent.
Several fruits have been suggested in place of the apple, including the orange, the citron, the quince, and the apricot, the main objection raised to the apple being that the hot, dry climate of most of Palestine is unfavorable to apple culture. However, the related Arabic word tuffakh primarily means “apple,” and it is notable that the Hebrew place names Tappuah and Beth–Tappuah (probably so named due to prevalence of this fruit in their vicinity) have been preserved in their Arabic equivalents by the use of this word.—Josh. 12:17; 15:34; 16:8; 17:8.
Those places were not in the lowlands but in the hill country, where the climate is generally somewhat moderated. Additionally, the possibility of some climatic variations in the past cannot be completely ruled out, as is pointed out by Dennis Baly in his book The Geography of the Bible (pages 72, 74). Apple trees do grow in Palestine today and thus seem to fit the Bible description satisfactorily. Dr. Thomson, who spent forty-five years in Syria and Palestine in the past century, reported finding apple orchards in the area of Ashkelon on the plains of Philistia.
● How old was Abel, the second son of Adam, at the time his brother Cain murdered him?
The Bible account does not give us his exact age at the time of his murder, but his approximate age can be deduced. Since the Bible records nothing in the way of history between the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden and their producing of their first two sons, Cain and Abel, it is reasonable to conclude that the boys were born within the space of a few years after their parents’ fall into sin. But as for the next-recorded events, leading to the death of Abel, it is written that these did not take place until after “the expiration of some time.” (Gen. 4:3) How much time?
Well, the third recorded son of Adam and his wife Eve was born shortly after Abel’s death and when Adam was 130 years of age. (Gen. 5:3) At the time of Seth’s birth Eve said: “God has appointed another seed in place of Abel, because Cain killed him.” (Gen. 4:25) It is not at all likely that Eve would have said this if a great many years had intervened; she evidently desired a son to replace the murdered Abel, and so the birth of Seth must have occurred shortly after Abel’s death. It is possible, then, that Abel may have been as much as a hundred years old at the time of his martyrdom.