apple mentioned in the Bible

The word “apple” appears 8 times in the King James Version and 7 times in other English translations (NKJV, NIV, NRSV).

Hebrew words

“Apple” was used as the translation of 4 different Hebrew words:

  1. tappuah (tappuaḦ) תַּפּ֫וּחַ or tappuach or tappuwach

    Beth-tappuah means “place of apples” (a town in Judah). Tappuah was the name of 3 other ancient biblical places—including a town in Judah (formerly a royal city of the Canaanites).

  2. 'iyshown
  3. babah
  4. bath

What fruit?

There has long been discussion of what fruit תַּפּ֫וּחַ refers to. Most accept the apple, others suggest the apricot or quince or orange. There is currently no clear evidence that apples grew in Israel in ancient times (possibly due to heat). But they were certainly not unknown in Israel, and the land does have cooler hill country. They definitely grew north of Israel in Lebanon. The ancient Romans cultivated apple trees extensively. It is possible that climatic conditions may have been more favorable in ancient times in Israel.

Today, more than 40 types of fruit a commercially grown in Israel. Apples are grown successfully in the northern hills of Israel and in Gaza.

The תַּפּ֫וּחַ (tappuah) is listed among the most valuable trees of Israel (Joel 1:12) and is frequently referred to in the Song of Solomon, and noted for its beauty.

Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
So is my beloved among the young men.
In his shade I took great delight and sat down,
And his fruit was sweet to my taste. —Song of Solomon 2:3 NASB

Sustain me with raisin cakes,
Refresh me with apples,
Because I am lovesick. —Song of Solomon 2:5 NASB

Beneath the apple tree I awakened you;
There your mother was in labor with you,
There she was in labor and gave you birth. —Song of Solomon 8:5b NASB

Like apples of gold in settings of silver
Is a word spoken in right circumstances. —Proverbs 25:11 NASB

The vine dries up
And the fig tree fails;
The pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree,
All the trees of the field dry up. —Joel 1:12 NASB excerpt


Dr. Tristram suggested that the apricot has a better claim than any other fruit tree to be the “apple” of Scripture. It grows to a height of 30 feet, has a roundish mass of glossy leaves, and bears an orange-colored fruit and has beautiful fragrance.

Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

There is no evidence that the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” was an apple tree, apricot tree, qunice or any other fruit tree mentioned here. Nor is there any connection between that tree and any of the Hebrew words mentioned here.

Apple of the Eye

The phrase “apple of the eye” is the Hebrew אּישׁוֹן (iyshown or ishon), referring to the pupil of the eye, not a fruit, although it is round (Proverbs 7:2).

Keep my commandments and live,
And my teaching [or law] as the apple [literal: pupil] of your eye. —Proverbs 7:2 NASB

(Compare the promise, Zechariah 2:8; the prayer, Psalm 17:8; and its fulfilment, Deuteronomy 32:10.)

Apple of Sodom

Some have suppposed that the so-called “apple of Sodom” was the Solanum incanum (sometimes used as a hedge of thorns) or Calotropis procera. Both plants bear a globular bitter fruit and are found in Israel and elsewhere.

The Jewish historian Josephus described the Calotropis procera he saw near Sodom, saying its “fruits have a color, as if they were fit to be eaten, but if you pluck them with your hands, they dissolve into smoke and ashes” (The Jewish War, Book 4). The fruit is an air-filled hollow that can explode in a puff when struck or even touched—ejecting its silky fibrous contents and seeds.

More information

Article Version: September 29, 2021