Good and Bad Figs


Bible Reference: Jeremiah 24:1-7

In the years prior to Jeremiah’s parable of the two baskets of figs, Judah’s King Jehoiakim was murdered. His son, Jehoiachin, succeeded his father to the throne. After ruling three months and ten days, the eighteen year-old king surrendered when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. This grandson of godly King Josiah, his mother and wives, capable fighting men, and the most skilled artisans and craftsmen were taken captive (597 BC) to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar made Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, the vassal king in Judah. In earlier prophecies, Jeremiah foretold both Jehoiakim’s murder and Jehoiachin being taken captive to Babylon.

In the parable of the two baskets of figs, God gave Jeremiah a vision that included a parable and its interpretation:

Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”“Figs,” I answered. “The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.” Jeremiah 24: 3-4 NIV

In contrast to the good figs, the outcome for the bad figs was dire. The bad figs were King Zedekiah, his officials, and other survivors in Jerusalem. God was going to send sword, famine, and plague on the people who remained in Judah. Indeed, during the siege of Jerusalem, residents suffered famine and pestilence. When they Babylonians broke through the Jerusalem walls thousands of Jerusalemites were murdered. Even though God banish the survivors to foreign kingdoms, God’s planned to make them abhorrent to people of every kingdom on earth.

How Figs Grow?????????????????

Figs were identified in written records as early as 9000 B.C. in the area of Jordan. The average fig tree grows about twenty feet tall and develops a spreading canopy. Tree roots spread far beyond the tree canopy searching for water. Some fig trees are damaged by temperatures that drop to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Perhaps, the bad figs in Jeremiah’s parable were damaged by a late frost.


Jeremiah’s prophecy of the good and bad figs came true. When Jehoiachin arrived in Babylon, he was placed in prison. There, he remained 37 years. When Nebuchadnezzar died, his son Evil-Murdock became king over Babylon. King Evil- Murdock released Jehoiachin from prison, gave him an allowance, and a favored place at the king’s high table for meals. Seventy years later after Jehoiachin’s captivity, his grandson, Zerubbabel, led the first 50,000 Jews who left Babylon and returned to Jerusalem. God considered the exiled Jews as good figs.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, King Zedekiah rebelled. Nebuchadnezzar returned to Jerusalem, laid siege to the city, killed King Zedekiah, and conquered Jerusalem and the surrounding towns. Nebuchadnezzar assigned Gedaliah, a politically-moderate Jew, as governor of Judea. Gedaliah established his capital at Mizpah. Ishmael, a member of Judah’s former royal family, killed Gedaliah and the Babylonian soldiers garrisoned at Mizpah. Jews not killed feared that Nebuchadnezzar would be furious at governor Gedaliah’s murder. They fled to Egypt for safety. Not too many years later, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt; in the invasion his army killed most of the Jews who fled there. Thus, the bad figs were destroyed.


Most Americans resonate to New Hampshire’s state motto: “Live Free or Die.” Yet, God told the Jewish exiles to submit to their Babylonian captors. When they did so, they were good figs. What was God’s rationale for declaring the captives “good?”

Copyright: November 21, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

Fig Leaves for Clothes


Reference: Genesis 3

Originally, man was created with free will. Adam and Eve could choose to obey or disobey God. While they obeyed God, Adam and Eve were without sin. Neither wore clothes; they were naked in each others presence and God’s presence yet felt no sense of shame or embarrassment (Genesis 2:25).

When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s command, they lost their innocence or sinless state. It was their choice to disobey to God — not solely the act of biting into, chewing, and swallowing a fruit — that introduced sin into the world. Disobeying God word is always a sin. Immediately after disobeying God, Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness. Adam was ashamed and embarrassed for Eve to see his naked body; likewise, Eve was embarrassed and ashamed for Adam to see her nakedness. To hide their nakedness and shame, Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to make an apron-like girdle.

Chagawr is the Hebrew word used for the apron-like girdle in Genesis 3:7. When compared with other Biblical references using the word (chagawr), a picture emerges of a belt tied around the waist with fig leaves sewed to the belt and each other that hung down and created a cover for the lower abdominal and genital areas. The underside of fig trees are rough. When disturbed or punctured they exude a gel-like substance. Fig leaves sewed together and put on for  clothes would have been very sticky and uncomfortable to wear.

Adam and Eve were wearing fig leaf aprons when they tried to avoid God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8-10). In God’s presence, Adam blurted out, “I was afraid (to come before you) because I was naked.” In reality, Adam was not naked; he was wearing a fig leaf apron. Adam saw the fig leaf apron as adequate to cover his nakedness front of Eve, but not in front of God.

Fig Trees

fig leaf & fruit

The fig tree (Ficus carica ) is a deciduous tree indigenous to the Mediterranean Sea area and eastward into Afghanistan.  Figs were identified in written records as early as 9000 BC in the area of Jordan. Fig trees grow as tall as 25 – 30 feet and develop a spreading canopy of branches and leaves. Fig leaves are plentiful and typically 5 – 10 inches long and 4 – 7 inches wide. Leaves contain 3 – 5 deep lobes. Given the size of fig leaves, Adam and Eve would have used multiple fig leaves together to create aprons.

Symbolism: Disobedience

When I read that Adam ascribed his avoidance and fear of God to nakedness, I was skeptical.  Adam knew he disobeyed God; probably Adam’s fear was more related to awareness of his disobedience than of his nakedness.

Today wearing clothes is the norm. Opting to be naked versus being clothed is not something we think about. Automatically, we dress for the day soon after getting out of bed. I don’t know about you, but I want to look good to others. I don’t want them to see the naked, unadorned parts of me. I want to present myself as a person who is attractive and together physically, psychologically, and spiritually. In reality, often I have enough baggage to fill my closet and then some.

Perhaps worse than projecting  false pictures and hiding ourselves from others is trying to hide ourselves from God. Do you lie to God? I do, when I attempt to obscure my true motives from Him in my prayers; often I try to “white wash” my behavior or rationalize my motives. God wants us to be naked and unashamed before Him. He knew us before creation and when we were in our mother’s womb. He knows our circumstance and behavior. God knows us so well that He can identify the exact number of hairs on each of our heads. There is nothing we can do that God doesn’t anticipate or know. Yet, He still loves us and calls us into a personal, intimate relationship with Him. There is no need to hide ourselves from God or to put a “spin” on our behavior when we talk to Him.

Reflection: Are you hiding yourself, to include your motives, from God?

Copyright: November 10, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

The Beauty of A Weed


This beautiful little plant is called bugleweed. It grew on my back hill. Normally, the flowers are on upright stems about 5-6 inches tall and a delicate blue-purple color. It tends to bloom about June, but the green color remains all summer. Bugle weed makes a good border plant and can cover a large area. Once planted, bugleweed emits runners which form roots in to the ground along the length of the runner. Some gardeners would label  bugle weed invasive.

Weeds are problematic. At first thought, most Gardeners don’t want them in a garden. We think of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds (tares) and are happy that we aren’t going to have the same fate as a weed.  But, for some reason I like the little bugle weed because it is so cheerful looking.

Reflection: We have to be careful that we aren’t attracted only to outward appearances, remembering to look on the heart.


Lotus and Vitality

Symbol of vitality for Job

Symbol of vitality for Job

Read Job chapter 40.

Job was a non-Jewish man who worshiped God. He was upright in his conduct and dealings with others (Job 1: 1- 5). Job lived during the second millennium B.C. in the land of Uz, probably located in present day Jordan. When the Book begins, we see God giving Satan permission to test Job’s righteousness and loyalty to God; Satan can do anything to Job but kill him (Job 1: 6 – 2: 10). The result is that Satan kills Job’s children, destroys Job’s home, deprives Job of his wealth, and afflicts him with painful boils from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Shortly after these calamities, three of Job’s friends visit him to extend comfort. Most of the Book of Job consists of discourses between Job and the three friends (Job chapters 3 – 37). We read Job’s struggle to understand his losses while still maintaining his faith in God. Finally, God becomes involved in a conversation with Job (Job chapters 38 – 41). God identifies himself as the creator of all things and as such Job should be able to trust God’s wisdom, love, and power.

The plant associated with Job is the lotus. The only place the lotus is mentioned in the Bible is Job 40: 21 – 22 when God speaks to Job. In response to Job’s accusations that God has wronged him (Job 19:6), God asserts that He is able to determine and administer justice. One of the ways God makes His point is by asking Job if Job can create and control the behemoth (Job 40: 15 – 24). Behemoth in Hebrew is behêmôwth meaning a large quadruped animal. An example of the behêmôwth is the hippopotamus, a semi-aquatic, plant-eating mammal that spends time under the water. The behemoth is described as lying under the lotus and concealed in the lotus’ shadow among marsh reeds and streams (Job 40: 21 – 23).

The Lotus Plant

The Bible information on the lotus plant is sketchy: it grows in marshes and streams and the plant grows large enough to cover and conceal the behemoth. The Mid-Eastern lotus is the Nelumbo nucifera, also called the sacred lotus. The lotuses presence has been documented for some 5000 years. The N. nucifera is an aquatic perennial. Lotus roots, called rhizomes, grow up to 4 feet and spread in wet soils such as a marsh, pond, or river bottom. Lotus stalks grow as high as 5 – 6 feet with a horizontal spread of 3 ½ yards. Leaves and flowers grow several inches above the water surface.In the center of the lotus blossom, there is a head or pod. The pod contains round lotus seeds in small circular chambers on its flat surface. The circular chambers cradle the seeds until they are fully ripe. At that time the pod bends over and releases the seeds into the water. Seeds fall to the bottom of the water, takes root, and in turn produce new lotus plants. Often dried lotus pods with seeds are used in flower arrangements.

Symbolism: Vitality

Most eastern cultures and religions identify some sort of symbolism with the lotus plant, e.g., the lotus represents creative power, purity, faithfulness, divine birth, and vitality. Vitality is the ability to live, grow, and develop. Often vitality is associated with the power to endure and survive. In the dry season in Jordan, water in ponds and streams are low and lotus seeds and roots remain dormant in the mud or cracked earth. With the coming of the rains, lotus seeds and roots grow from the mud. Leaf and flower buds emerge over the top of the water and unfold into the visible beauty of the lotus leaf and blossom.

Like the lotus plant, Job’s dialogues demonstrate vitality – persistent life, endurance, and growth in extreme adversity. At times Job’s speeches indicate that he wishes he had never been born (Job 3: 3, 11, 16) and he longs for death (Job 3: 20 – 21). Repeatedly, Job cries to God for answers so he can understand how God could allow these over-whelming losses in his life (Job 7: 20; 10: 1 – 7). Yet, Job’s belief in God remains alive in spite of all his hardships. Job avers, “to God belong wisdom, and power; counsel and understanding are His” (Job 12: 13). In the midst of his anguish Job utters the words that have been a part of Judeo-Christian belief for almost 3000 years, “though he slay me, yet will I hope (trust) in him” (Job 13: 15). It is from Job that we have the promise and prophecy, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19: 25).

Near the end of the Book of Job (chapters 38 – 41) God responds to Job, not to give Job a reason for his suffering, but to remind Job that the wisdom that directs God’s ways is beyond the reach of human understanding. Finally, Job understands that God’s purposes are supreme over all creation to including Job himself (42: 1 – 6). As a result of Job’s honesty, God blesses the latter part of Job’s life more than the first part. God give Job a long life that includes seven sons and three beautiful daughters (Job 42: 10 – 17). God rewards Job with more than twice as much prosperity as Job had before his adversity.

Like the beautiful lotus plant and like Job, we have the opportunity to grow into more vital Christians when we encounter unfavorable and difficulty situations. When we encounter these situation, the way to become a more alive Christian is not to “curse God and die” (Job 2: 9), but to cling even tighter to the giver and sustainer of our lives. When we experience desolation and despair, we need to spend time in prayer and read God’s Word. Just like God judged the attitude of Jobs heart and spoke directly to Job’s situation, so does the Bible speak directly to Christians. God tells us in Hebrews 4: 12 – 13: The word of the Lord is living and active. The word of the Lord judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight (NIV). If we open our hearts to God through prayer and Bible reading, God gives us insight into our circumstance that we can use to live and grow. God provides clear perception that we can use to move beyond our present situation to a new vitality.

Thought: What do we do in when we experience tough times? Do we use them to grow (vitality), or do we collapse under their weight and turn from God?

Copyright October 26, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

Mom Talks to Plants


Do you ever wish that children and others were like this?

Reeds and Revelations

Phragmites communis (2)

Bible Reference: Genesis Chapter 41.

Joseph’s (1915 BC-1805 BC) life was swayed by his dreams and the dreams of others. He alienated his brothers by telling them his dream in which they bow to him. Because of their jealousy, his brothers sold him into slavery when Joseph was 17 years old.

Joseph became a slave in a wealthy Egyptian household. Wrongly accused of molesting the owner’s wife, Joseph was sent to prison. During his imprisonment, Joseph interpreted a dream from the cup-bearer of Pharaoh.  Later when Joseph was about 30, Pharaoh had a dream that his advisers couldn’t interpret.

Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and gave God the credited for being able to do so. The interpretation was that seven years of over-abundance would be followed by seven years of famine in Egypt.  Pharaoh asked Joseph how Egypt could avoid the devastating effects of the famine.  Joseph suggested storing food during the seven years of over-abundance that could be used during the seven years of famine. The plan seemed good to Pharaoh. Pharaoh made Joseph second only to himself in power in Egypt and charged Joseph to implement the plan.

Egyptian’s belief included that after death they traveled through the underworld for 12 hours of night, eventually reaching the Field of Reeds. In the Field of Reeds the body was reanimated and rejuvenated.  The Field of Reeds was a natural extension of life in Egypt, e.g., Egyptians ate, loved, and worshiped there. Class distinctions remained, pharaoh remained pharaoh.  Pharaoh’s dream was located in reeds along the Nile River. It encompassed sleek, fat cows being eaten by ugly, lean cows.  Possibly pharaoh suspected that his dream impacted not only his country, but also his afterlife in the Field of Reeds.

The Egyptian Reed 

The reed that Pharaoh dreamed about was most likely the Phragmites australis, also known as the Phragmites communis and the Egyptian, common Reed.  Generally, reeds do not tolerate rapidly flowing water but are well adapted to both fresh and brackish water.  The Egyption reed is a tall perennial grass with central stalks called culms.  Usually culms grows to a height of 6–9 feet but have been known to grow 16 feet.  In the growing season, culms are green, but as winter emerges, stalks become dark yellow or brown. In the Middle East, flowers, called panicles, bloom at the top of the reed from July through December. Initially the flower is green or purplish, but becomes a warm sandy color as the plant matures. Flowers are large (6–16 inches) and showy  The Egyptian reed spreads by underground root (rhizome) root extension or when portions of the root or plant break from the main reed and move by water to a new location where they take root and grow.

Reeds grew along the Nile River bank and throughout the Nile delta and were a key economic asset to the ancient Egyptians.  Reed colonies were used in erosion control and provided wildlife habitats along the river and in the delta. In the warm season, the Egyptian reed provided high quality forage for both cattle and horses. The reeds upright growth made it easy for livestock to eat all of the leaves.  Reeds were used extensively for roofing materials on homes of the poor.  They provided lattices, fences, materials for weaving mats and carrying nets.  Reeds were cut and fashioned into pens; rope was made from the fiber of flower stalks.  Because they were straight, long, and durable, reeds were used as measuring devices.

Symbolism of the Egyptian reed 

According to Worcester (2009) reeds symbolized material or corporal (bodily) truth and knowledge.  Material or corporal truth is the lowest form of truth.  Corporal truths change with cultural norms, societal perspectives, and personal experiences.  In contrast to corporal truth, Divine truth is eternal and unchangeable. God is defined as the God of truth (Isaiah 61:16). Divine truth can be used as a measuring rod against which individuals in all ages and societies can evaluate personal thoughts, beliefs, and behavior.

In today’s world, God’s truth comes primarily from the Bible. As we grow spiritually, the Holy Spirit opens scripture passages in ever increasing depth.  For many years I have attended Bible studies, e.g., Genesis, The Acts of the Apostles. With each repeated study on a topic, I understood the characters and events in more detail.  I am able to comprehend more of God’s purpose in placing a story or event in the Holy Scriptures.

As individuals pray and meditate on scripture, they may receive insights and even revelations; but those insights and revelations never contradict the infallible Word of God.  We need to be very careful before we say, “God told me to do x or y.”  If we get personal revelations which we think are from God, we need to search the scripture to verify that the message is true.

As I looked through the Index in my Bible, I found 17 verses in Matthew alone in which Christ said, “I tell you the truth” and then proceeded to direct his disciples or audience toward some action, to issue a warning, or provide some insight to life. Christ did not need to say, “I tell you the truth” because Christ is Divine and by definition cannot lie.  He used the words for emphasis or to get his listener’s attention.  The entire Bible is full of Divine truth.  There is no need for us to rely only on physical or corporal truth as we walk through life.

Reflection: From where do you get your truth? CNN, FOX, your local newspaper, your pastor, or the Bible?

Copyright October 15, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth

Madonna (crown) Flower


When we were in Israel, the beautiful Madonna flower (Artedia squamata) seemed to grow everywhere in the north and central areas. Then, we traveled south into the Negev and desert areas and its disappeared. Although it does not need a great deal of water to thrive, the southern Israel desert is just too dry to support its growth.

The Madonna flower is beautiful, appearing both delicate and if I can apply a human term to a flower — serene. I liked looking at it possibly because it contains so many shapes in one flower.


The flower blossom itself is flat being a member of the Umbelliferae family of plants. It sets atop a thin stem with leaves that often dissect one or two times. Generally, the Israeli Madonna flower blooms in Israel March through May. Insects seem to love its nectar; often you see it with bees buzzing from one flower to another.

When the Madonna flower is done blooming, it still remains interesting; even when it changes to a brownish rather than white color. The spent flower becomes a fuzzy oval or half ball. It is often used in autumn wreaths.  dried

Reflection: The Artedia squamata is diverse in its new bloom and attractive even when spent. Not a bad eulogy for an individuals as well as a flower.

Copyright: October 5, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

Israeli Strawberry Tree

1-DSC06144The eastern strawberry tree (Arbutus andrachne) is in the Ericaceae, or heather, family of trees. The pictures in this blog entry were taken in Neot Kedumim, the Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel.

It is evergreen, or partially deciduous tree, and known for its bright red bark. Every year the tree peels in picturesque scales. The new bark underneath is at first green-brown and then turns red.


Today Arbutus andrachne is known as a small shrub or small tree (up to 20 feet); but archeological evidence showed that specimens were once large enough to be a structural building timber. The Arbutus andrachne remains of a beam supporting the roof of the “Sunken Room” at Sidon, Lebanon, were grown c.1390-1120 BCE.

In Israel the eastern strawberry tree grows in Galilee, Gilboa, Carmel, Samarian mountains, Judean mountains, and Shefela.  The tree likes the chalky soils in Israel, e.g., the soil is poorly aerated and anaerobic.

Leaves are simple with a smooth edge that comes to a point on the end.


Small white flowers bloom in March and April,and turn to a small red strawberry like fruit in late spring and early summer. The fruit are about the size of American cherries.


Reflection: I like the idea of my bark sloughing off and starting new every year and becoming an attractive color. In reality, that is what God does for me when He forgives my sin. God allows me to start over. The problem is that I remember my sins and all I do and did that was wrong. I do not forget and allow myself to start over as God planned.

Candy Tufts

Candy Tufts 1Candy tufts (Iberis sempervirens) were not mentioned in the Bible; nor do they grow in our church Bible garden or at my home. I cannot seem to grow candy tufts. Several years I planted them in containers and after an initial spurt of growth they died.

For me candy tufts is like the parable of the sower and the seed. Remember that some of the seed fell on shallow ground. The seed promptly germinated and grew, producing good looking plants. Then, when adversity came, the plant died. After the initial bloom my candy tufts died. Perhaps, they did not receive enough water or I over watered them. Maybe the  soil in the containers was too shallow or they did not get enough plant food to thrive. For whatever reason, they died.

Christ said some new Christians are like that. They receive the message of Christ gladly and seem to follow him, e.g., they sprang up over night. Because their soil had no depth, they died.Iberis sempervirens

Reflection: What kind of Christian soil do you have in your life? Are you fertilizing your soil by going to church and studying your Bible?

Transient Plants and Wicked Men

Laurus noblisSome Old Testament parables tell a complete story, e.g., Jotham’s parable of the trees crowning a king. Others, such as those in Psalm 37 are short and sometimes even appear terse. Whether long or short, each parable has a spiritual message that unfolds through ideas, incidents, or natural objects in the physical world. In Psalm 37 King David included three parables of one to two verses each. These short parables compared wicked, ruthless men to plants.

As we read reading Psalm 37, we imagine an older and wiser King David. He is no longer the brash aspirant to Israel’s throne or a newly crowned king. This King David comes across as a person has seen a wide range of events and people in his life time. David has dealt with his sin of having Uriah killed so he could marry Bathsheba. He knew his daughter was raped and subsequently dealt with the murder of Crown Prince Amnon. King David was deposed at Israel’s king and fought a heart-breaking battle to regain the throne. God, who David adored, told David that his hands were too bloody to build God’s temple.

Many of King David’s words were written as praise or prayers addressed to God (Adeyemo, 2006). In contrast, Psalm 37 is a teaching directed toward all who will listen. The 40 verses contain a number of separate thoughts loosely organized around a central theme. The theme is problems that result when good people see wicked, godless people prosper. Notice, that through David’s psalm God views righteous (good) versus wicked, ruthless individuals differently:
“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like
the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away”
(Psalm 37:1-2 NIV).

“But the wicked will perish: The LORD’s enemies will be like the beauty of
the fields, they will vanish” (Psalm 37:20 NIV).

Psalm 37 begins with a parable in verses 1 and 2. Evil men are compared to grass which will soon withers and dies away. When I lived in San Francisco, plants bloomed all year around because of continuous rain and moisture in the air. It was difficult for me to imagine grass withering and field flowers fading (verse 20). But, sometime I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and travel up Highway 80 into the Sacramento Valley. In July, August, and even into September and October, the grass along the highway was brown and appeared dead. Few if any wildflowers grew along the highway.

The same was true of David’s Israel. There, the rains came October through March. At that time, the grass was green and flourished. As spring progresses into summer, the grass turned brown from the scorching heat of the sun and paucity of rain. The beauty of the fields to include any wild flowers that grew there, dried and turned brown. David identified that wicked men will vanish like the beauty of the fields (Psalm 37:20), i.e., in the heat of summer with little rain fall, plants turn into brown straw.

David’s third plant parable, verses 35-36, is the most complete. In it David compared wicked and ruthless men to a green tree in its native soil; but, over time these men disappear. In some Bibles (KJV and ESV), green tree is translated as a green bay tree. Characteristics of the bay laurel tree make it a fitting comparison to the transience of wicked, ruthless men.

“I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its
native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for
him, he could not be found” (Psalm 37:35-36 NIV).

Bay Leaves

In both the KJV and ESV versions of the Bible, green tree is translated as green laurel tree. In Israel, laurel trees are Laurus nobilis, called the sweet bay laurel because bay leaves come from the tree. Laurel trees grew on Mount Hermon, in the Judean and Samarian mountains, and in the Jordan Valley. Although laurel trees grow in a wide variety of soils, they thrive in moisture-retentive soils. The laurel is an evergreen tree that can grow 60 feet tall; however, most are much smaller at eight-to-twelve feet. Left unattended, laurel trees can form a small thicket. One way to identify a laurel tree is to bruise or cut a leaf and smell the sweet aroma; the aroma is of a bay leaf.

One of the most important attributes of laurel trees—and one that King David apparently knew—was that laurel trees thrive where they are planted. They tend to wilt and even die if they are moved repeatedly. Ideally, gardeners plant laurel trees and allow them to grow in place. Laurel trees prefer partial shade. Although they tolerate strong winds, laurel trees haven’t adapted to maritime exposure. The tree is frost-sensitive. A few master gardeners including myself planted laurel trees here in the Roanoke Valley. Although smaller laurel trees tolerated several of our (plant zones seven) winters, all died after a few years. We learned that in the Roanoke valley, laurel trees grow best in protected areas such as next to a building.

King David said that he saw wicked and ruthless men who flourished like a green laurel tree in its native soil. Probably, he was thinking of a mature laurel tree with a broad canopy and numerous branches. This tree never suffered the setback from being transplanting. Likewise, prosperous, wicked men never seemed to suffer set-backs. They achieved wealth and influence, caring little who they step on in the process. In spite of their seeming charmed lives, David noted that later he looked for these wicked men. They were gone. David concluded that wicked men don’t endure; they have no staying power. Perhaps, like a laurel tree wicked men can’t tolerate adversity—they are frost sensitive—and only flourish in a narrow environment.

In the threee these parables in Psalm 37, King David went beyond identifying the puzzle of seeing wicked ones prospering. In verse eight David elaborated on advice he gave in verse one. David said not to fret when evil men prosper because fretting leads to evil. When David said evil, he meant anger, resentful, or mimicking wicked and ruthless men’s business practices. Instead refrain from anger and hope in the Lord. When we hope in the Lord we take our bad as well as good times to him. We take our cares and our joys.

The spiritual focus of these parables is: righteous men and women’s incentive to act right (using biblical moral-ethical standards) comes from knowing that ultimate power on earth and in heaven is in the hands of a just God. Even if the righteous person doesn’t experience worldly prosperity, they will be rewarded in heaven for how they acted on earth. In a later Psalm, David averred that the righteous flourish like a palm tree and like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the Lord’s house (Psalm 92:12-14). Righteous men bear fruit in old age and stay both fresh and green.

In contrast to King David’s parables that speak to the transience of wicked men, probably each us have seen such men and woman thrived their entire career, even life. Was David wrong in verses 35-36? What did he mean? MacDonald (1990) wrote that King David may have been stating a general principle. He noted that Holy Scripture often makes sweeping statements; it describes a general, or normal, outwork of spiritual laws. Exceptions don’t disprove the overall principles.

Reflection: Have you studied the behavior of wicked persons? Do they have staying power?

Copyright: September 12, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth